There’s more “you can’t make this stuff up” news from the North Carolina General Assembly this week. As reported in this space Monday, lawmakers slipped a provision into the Senate budget (none of this stuff ever gets done or debated in public anymore) to slash SNAP food assistance benefits to as many as 133,000 North Carolinians — more than a third of whom are children.
The reasoning? Well, actually there isn’t any — any that make sense.
The apparent driving force behind the change, Senator Ralph Hise, told WRAL that senators didn’t like the fact that: a) some people were getting benefits automatically merely because they were poor enough to qualify for other programs (huh?), b) the rolls have been growing in recent years (welcome to the modern, haves-and-have-nots economy, Senator) and c) North Carolina’s eligibility standards were more generous than some other states (Heaven forbid).
Here’s the kicker, however: The change doesn’t save the state a dollar. The funding is all federal. This is from the WRAL story:
“DHHS Deputy Secretary Susan Perry-Manning explained that the program is funded by the federal government, not the state, so cutting it has no effect on the state budget.
‘It doesn’t save the state any money,’ Perry-Manning said. ‘These are federal dollars that are not capped.'”
In fact, by cutting off assistance to tens of thousands of people, the Senate would actually injure the state’s economy and, in particular, the hundreds of retailers who take SNAP benefits. In other words, the reason for cutting people off is that Senators are mean and just felt like it.
And here’s another remarkable kicker: Senator Hise, the man who’s so upset about some poor people getting food assistance and who has enough time on his hands to engineer a budget provision to cut off 133,000 people, is the same fellow under investigation for failure to file campaign finance reports and, allegedly, misusing campaign funds for his own benefit. He is also the same person who takes home a nice public salary in the position of “Coordinator of Special Projects” at Mayland Community College in Spruce Pine.
The bottom line: If Senator Hise had simply complied with state election laws (thereby abrogating the need for a costly investigation), he’d almost certainly save the state more money than he will by cutting off food aid to struggling families. Maybe he could get approval from the folks at Mayland Community College to add it to his list of special projects.
One final note: In commenting on a previous post on the subject of Sen. Hise’s troubles with the Board of Elections, a commenter suggested that Hise’s mother is ill and that that is the reason for his failure to file his reports. If this is true about Hise’s mother, this is very sad news and we wish her well. Such a situation does not, however, abrogate the senator’s duty to comply with the law or serve the people of North Carolina in the Senate with some modicum of human decency and common sense.