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Welfare checks can be used to buy alcohol and cigarettes in California

On a straight party-line vote California lawmakers gave the green light for welfare recipients to purchase alcohol and tobacco products using taxpayer money. The insanity in the Golden State continues despite the state’s $23 billion deficit and double-digit unemployment.

Recently California changed the way it disperses food stamps. In an effort to take the stigma away from food stamps the state issues welfare beneficiaries with an Electronic Benefits Card which look and work like an ATM card.

The Golden State doles out welfare benefits through the CalWORKS program. In the past welfare recipients were not allowed to buy beer and cigarettes, but compassionate state lawmakers decided it wasn’t fair to stop TAXPAYER money from being used to subsidize non-essential bad habits.

“You would think a simple common sense reform like trying to make sure taxpayer money is not used for the purchase of alcohol and tobacco would find bi-partisan support,” said GOP State Senator Bob Dutton.

No such luck in California, Dutton, SB417’s sponsor saw his legislation to save taxpayer money fail on a straight party-line vote.

California’s EBT/ATM card caught national attention last year when the Los Angeles Times uncovered several documents proving the welfare cards were being used for vacations to Hawaii, Las Vegas and strip clubs. Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger quickly quashed the vacation perks, but failed to stop the alcohol or cigarette buying ability.

“These funds are designed help the neediest in California meet their basic requirements of providing food, clothing and shelter,” Senator Dutton quipped. “I doubt there’s not a taxpayer in this state who believes purchasing alcohol or tobacco with welfare money constitutes a basic need and should be allowed.”

Senator Dutton also explained that more than half of welfare beneficiaries are parents who are no longer eligible for state aid, but still receive cash assistance on behalf of their anchor baby children.

“With over half of the caseload consisting of ‘child-only’ cases, it is unconscionable to allow designated caregivers the ability to purchase tobacco and alcohol products on behalf of a minor,” Senator Dutton said. “I was quite frankly surprised that Democrats believe that this practice should continue. I remain committed to continue working on real reform measures, like SB 417, to ensure that all taxpayer money is used as it is intended,” Senator Dutton concluded.

In an effort to reform welfare Senator Dutton sought the assistance of the California Grocers Association to implement a ban on alcohol and tobacco purchases with the state’s EBT/ATM card.

This year California taxpayers will support nearly 600,000 families by enrolling them into CalWORKS. The program disperses more than $100 million to help welfare recipients purchase groceries.

Something else taxpayers should consider is that California Governor Jerry Brown is seeking to raise the tobacco tax another dollar in order to fund cancer research; while Democrat Senator Alex Padilla already introduced a bill to raise the cigarette tax by a whopping $1.61 to be used to curb smoking. Neither program will cut the $23 billion deficit.

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© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

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