Connecticut Governor Wages Food Fight With Boehner

HARTFORD, CT - APRIL 4: Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy speaks during the gun control law signing event at the Connecticut Capitol pril 4, 2013 in Hartford, Connecticut, After more than 13 hours of debate, the Connecticut General Assembly approved the gun-control bill early April 4, that proponents see as the toughest-in-the-nation response to the Demember 14, 2012 Newtown school shootings. (Photo by Christopher Capozziello/Getty Images)
National Journal
Billy House
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Billy House
March 17, 2014, 9:08 a.m.

Con­nectic­tut Gov. Dan­nel Mal­loy blas­ted Speak­er John Boehner as “disin­genu­ous at best and shame­ful at worst” on Monday for call­ing some states cheat­ers and frauds be­cause they are thwart­ing con­gres­sion­al ef­forts to re­duce food-stamp pay­ments.

“Con­gress wrote the bill. Con­gress passed the bill. And now states are im­ple­ment­ing the law, your rep­re­hens­ible com­ments not­with­stand­ing,” Demo­crat Mal­loy wrote in his let­ter to the speak­er.

“Fur­ther­more, your de­mon­iz­a­tion of states that have elec­ted to provide this be­ne­fit im­pugns the chil­dren, the eld­erly, the dis­abled, the low-wage work­ers, and vet­er­ans who re­ceive such aid by im­ply­ing that they are a party to something crim­in­al,” Mal­loy stated.

“Any gov­ernor who chooses to un­der­mine the bi­par­tis­an re­forms in the farm bill is weak­en­ing the crit­ic­al home-heat­ing pro­gram and tak­ing money out of every Amer­ic­an tax­pay­er’s pock­et,” Boehner spokes­man Mi­chael Steel said in re­sponse to Mal­loy’s let­ter.

At is­sue are ef­forts by Mal­loy and the gov­ernors in Mas­sachu­setts, New York, Ore­gon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Is­land, and Ver­mont to main­tain cur­rent levels of food stamps, of­fi­cially known as the Sup­ple­ment­al Nu­tri­tion­al As­sist­ance Pro­gram. Those moves could af­fect por­tions of the re­cently passed farm bill aimed at sav­ing $8.6 bil­lion over the next 10 years.

The farm bill’s much-touted re­duc­tions were brought about largely by chan­ging eli­gib­il­ity re­quire­ments for food stamps, which are based in some cases on eli­gib­il­ity for low-in­come heat­ing as­sist­ance provided by the states. As many as 17 states could pay out as little as $1 to re­cip­i­ents to boost that per­son’s eli­gib­il­ity for food aid. The farm bill changed that re­quire­ment to at least $20.01, and the as­sump­tion was that the fed­er­al fund­ing for the food-stamps pro­gram would de­crease as a res­ult.

Yet in an ef­fort to avoid the cuts, Con­necti­c­ut of­fi­cials have shif­ted an ad­ded $1.4 mil­lion of funds avail­able un­der the Con­necti­c­ut En­ergy As­sist­ance Pro­gram to meet the new threshold. The move is ex­pec­ted to pre­serve about $66.6 mil­lion in an­nu­al food-stamp be­ne­fits for house­holds in Con­necti­c­ut.

And oth­er states have said they are pur­su­ing or con­sid­er­ing sim­il­ar ef­forts.

Mal­loy, in his let­ter on Monday, noted that me­dia ac­counts have quoted Boehner as re­spond­ing, “Since the pas­sage of the farm bill, states have found ways to cheat, once again, on sign­ing up people for food stamps…. And so I would hope the House would act to try and stop this cheat­ing and this fraud from con­tinu­ing.”

But Mal­loy poin­ted out that his state and oth­ers are im­ple­ment­ing an op­tion spelled out in the law.

“To char­ac­ter­ize as cheat­ing and fraud states’ im­ple­ment­a­tion of this pro­vi­sion is disin­genu­ous at best and shame­ful at worst,” Mal­loy wrote. “Con­gress in­ten­ded to grant states the au­thor­ity to provide this vi­tal be­ne­fit, which is a life­line to some of our most vul­ner­able con­stitu­ents.”

“To the con­trary, I think most would ar­gue that deny­ing res­id­ents of my state $112 a month in nu­tri­tion as­sist­ance is mor­ally wrong,” he stated.

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