Dean Kaufert outlines new food stamp bill

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Dean Kaufert outlines new food stamp bill

Premiere Date: 
May 9, 2013

Dean Kaufert explains a bill he recently introduced that alters the Food Shae progam.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Zac Schultz:

Now back to the Capitol. Earlier this week, the state assembly passed a bill that would change the way anyone receiving food stamps could spend their money. In Wisconsin, food stamps are known as the Foodshare program and the money is actually placed on a debit card. Recipients are already prohibited from buying things like alcohol and tobacco, but this bill would require at least two-thirds of the money to be spent on healthier food. The author of the bill is Republican Dean Kaufert, who joins us now from Appleton. Representative Kaufert, thanks for being here.

Dean Kaufert:

Thank you for having me, Zac.

Zac Schultz:

Well, explain why you think this bill is so important.

Dean Kaufert:

Well, it's important. I mean, this bill's been, the thought behind this bill's, been around for a long time. I've talked to a lot of grocery clerks, convenience store clerks. A lot of folks have said to me that everyone seems to have a story about Foodshare dollars not being spent very wisely or prudently. You know, the name of the federal program is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan, and with that being said, I think a lot of folks, not all of them, but a lot of folks have got away from that and are spending those dollars unwisely and really unhealthy. We need to get back to the core staples food items that people need to fill up their cupboards back home.

Zac Schultz:

And a large part of the debate was, what is part of the core staple food item? Does it include potatoes and starches and other kinds of meats?

Dean Kaufert:

Yeah. I mean, the implementation is a little tricky, and I recognize that. And the implementation, whether it be how we're going to do this at the grocery store, what types of foods are going to be in?  At the beginning my thought process was to do a pilot program, one small area of the state. We went away from that, and we said, this is going to be a statewide program. We're going to take, utilize, the WIC program. We already have a system in place, women, infants and children. There's a list of about 1200 items that we can use as the basis for this. So we used that list. We added meat. We added fish, chicken, pork and potatoes to that list. We're going to revise the list even further, and then we’re going to utilize that as the starting point of what you can utilize two-thirds of your dollars for, and the other third, people can spend it on whatever they want that's allowable expense.

Zac Schultz:

Well, just yesterday the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee passed a motion that would prevent local communities from passing ordinances that would ban food or drinks based on size or calories. It's a reaction to the ban on large sodas passed by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. Do you support the Joint Finance motion? And if so, how is your bill different?

Dean Kaufert:

My bill is a lot different. I've been asked this a lot, you know, what gives us the right to provide guidelines or to say what could be bought under Foodshare and what can't? It's very simple in my mind. And I tell people, I'm not doing what Michael Bloomberg did. Michael Bloomberg was telling people how they could spend their own money, and I don't think that that's appropriate. But what we should be able to do is we should be able to provide guidelines, assistance, educational opportunities, for people who spend taxpayer money. None of us are saying that, you know, we don't want-- we want to end the Foodshare program, we want to change the program. I just want to say, we want to provide some guidelines. This, what Joint Finance did, you know, I mean, I support the concept, but it's kind of bad timing. It's kind of mucking up a little bit of, you know, of the intent of my bill, which has widespread support.

Zac Schultz:

Now, assuming you get a federal waiver , and that's a pretty big assumption at this point , the state says it will cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars to get this set up from their end, and the bill requires the state to reimburse grocery stores for any expenses they incur. Is this really the right place to be putting the state's money?

Dean Kaufert:

Well, you know, the costs haven't been determined yet. We haven’t done a cost study on what it's going to cost the grocery stores. But that is a concern. We don’t want to make more regulations, more burdens on the convenience stores or the grocery stores. But if you think about this act, in Wisconsin it's a $1.2 billion program, food stamps is. So if only 10% of it is being spent on junk food, is being spent unwisely, that is over $100 million. And so, and statistically, you know, the pop companies say, that of the $80 billion federal program, $8 billion is being spent on soda. So my point is is that if we can do this for a relatively low cost, think of the savings in the program overall, and the more dollars spent more wisely, helping kids get nutritious foods. I think that that's what this is all about. Michelle Obama at the federal government, the administration is going around the nation saying, let's get people to eat better. Let's get better school lunches and that. This fits right in. They should look at this waiver in a positive light and say, Wisconsin's trying to do something. Let's let Wisconsin be the test case.

Zac Schultz:

All right. Representative Kaufert, we'll continue to follow this issue. Thanks for joining us.

Dean Kaufert:

Thanks for having me.  


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