It’s hard for Republicans to choose the most enjoyable part of the EBT card controversy – they’re finding it all very pleasant. It’s fun to cow the Democratic legislature into agreeing that the most troubling problem facing the state is fraud being committed by poor people. And certainly for the Governor to accuse the Legislature of “political grandstanding” on the issue was a marvelous gift, and one that helped to create the false impression that he had rejected all their EBT changes outright when he had not. He agreed completely with many of the Legislature’s proposals, such as making food stamp trafficking a criminal offense, charging recipients for replacement EBT cards, and investigating case records for possible fraud.
His major difference with the Legislature? Whether it is a smart idea for the state to try to prohibit the purchase of specific items with EBT cards. The Governor believes that this would be significantly more expensive to enforce (to the point of not being cost-effective) than prohibiting specific establishments from accepting EBT cards for any purchases, a proposal he generally agreed with. The enforcement problems presented by policing individual purchases may turn out to be the gift that keeps on giving for the Republicans. When shoppers are held up at the checkout line while a store manager investigates whether a watch band qualifies as “jewelry” and therefore cannot be purchased with an EBT card, the Republicans are betting that government will get the blame, not them. When more workers are hired in an effort to enforce this mandate, they’ll point with great delight to the “bloated” state budget. And, best of all, they’ll be able to keep talking about EBT cards instead of issues more important than the welfare program, which accounts for less than one percent of the state’s budget.