New LePage administration rule bans lottery winners from food stamp rolls

Good morning from Augusta, where Tuesday’s story is a new LePage administration rule banning people who win more than $5,000 in lottery and gambling prizes from receiving food stamps.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services has been mulling the rule change since 2015, when the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting revealed that nearly 3,700 public assistance recipients won $22 million in lottery prizes since 2010, a sum that would require hundreds of millions of dollars in spending.

It’s similar to another rule from the department in 2015 that limited food stamps to people with less than $5,000 in certain assets. The Maine Legislature passed a bill this year banning the purchase of lottery tickets, alcohol and tobacco with cash assistance.

This test, however, is an old concept. After establishing a lottery in 1984, California instituted a rule matching people on lottery and welfare rolls. Michigan established a $5,000 asset test in 2012, removing more than 800 people from public assistance the next year to save $2 million, according to the center.

In a statement, DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew said, “In no way, shape or form should taxpayers be asked to foot the bill for someone who is gambling and winning huge amounts of money.”

However, a 2012 review of asset tests by the progressive New America found that the number of welfare cases closed because of asset limits is low. Over one year in Idaho, it was 2.2 percent and lower in other places. The study also said such limits discourage savings by having a threshold too low to pay for emergency expenses. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • A conservative super-PAC has begun a planned $1.1 million ad campaign against Democratic 2nd Congressional District candidate Emily Cain. The Congressional Leadership Fund’s first statewide ad hits familiar arguments against Cain, including her support of a carbon tax. U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin has also focused on that in their nationally targeted campaign that has already seen $6.2 million in outside spending without this new expenditure from the super-PAC linked to Republican leaders.
  • U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is doing a coastal campaign swing for Republican state Senate candidates. She’ll be in Rockland this afternoon to campaign with David Emery of Tenants Harbor, the former congressman running against Democratic Sen. David Mirament of Camden. She’ll follow it with a trip down Route 1 to Wiscasset on behalf of Republican Dana Dow of Waldoboro, who is facing Democratic Sen. Chris Johnson of Somerville. Collins campaigned with Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport in Belfast last week.
  • A bomb-throwing lawmaker’s nonprofit group was fined $672 for a mailer attacking House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, according to the Morning SentinelThe New England Oppportunity Project, led by Rep. Larry Lockman, R-Amherst, attacked McCabe for supposedly being supportive of allowing terrorists and illegal immigrants to live in Maine, a conflict that goes back to this year’s legislative session, when McCabe and Democrats used procedural moves to block a Lockman bill. The Maine Ethics Commission said the expenditure for the mailer needed to be disclosed. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • This isn’t really how voting works: A Maine voter who considers Clinton “the least worst candidate” but doesn’t want to vote for her is looking for a Republican who doesn’t want to vote for Trump so both “can write in our own choice without repercussion,” a move that would just result in two votes for people who won’t be president.
  • Lazy, uncomfortable cat not included: Someone in Portland is giving away an imitation leather chair, but I’m not sure how comfy it is because this lazy cat looks miserable. Here’s his soundtrack— Michael Shepherd
Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.