Patty Ritchie, a state senator from New York, introduced a bill last week taking aim at the state's food stamp program (called SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), writing that "the purpose of SNAP is to promote good nutrition."
"At a time when our state and nation are struggling with an obesity epidemic, it is critically important that taxpayer-funded programs help low-income consumers make wise and healthy food choices," Ritchie wrote in the bill's memo.
Ritchie's bill proposes to prevent people from using their SNAP benefits from purchasing "luxury items like high-end steaks and lobster," as well as energy drinks and "decorated cakes," to name examples listed in the memo. With this bill, Ritchie says she is primarily concerned with promoting the "health and well-being" of New York residents, saying that obesity and its adjacent causes amount to $147 billion in annual national spending.
As The News Journal points out, bills policing the limits of welfare have been a popular practice among lawmaking Republicans; in the past, the Senate has passed bills restricting people from using their EBT cards to withdraw money from strip clubs and liquor stores.
Liberal advocates in the state are unhappy with the bill. Via the Journal:
Jeremy Saunders, co-executive director of Vocal New York, a group that advocates for low-income New Yorkers, said the bill is "ridiculous."
"Our food-stamp system is set up for people that do not have enough access to food to be able to get food," Saunders said. "This is a Republican attempt to make it appear that poor people use tax dollars to buy steak and lobster."
Ritchie, the bill's author, considers herself a small-government conservative.
Michael Rosen is a reporter for Fusion based out of Oakland.