AUGUSTA — Democrats are accusing Republican Gov. Paul LePage of playing politics and stretching the truth in his weekly address by claiming Democrats opposed his effort to prevent welfare cash benefits from being drawn from ATMs at places like bars, liquor stores and strip clubs.
In his address, the governor touted his administration’s announcement that it had begun blocking the use of electronic benefit transfer cards at 44 ATMs and said he anticipated that more than 200 others would be blocked by summer.
“Once again, Democrats objected to this common-sense measure to protect the taxpayers’ money,” he said.
But Democrats supported the 2012 bill that banned the use of benefits in those locations and directed the Department of Health and Human Services to develop rules to enforce it. The measure was approved in the House with unanimous support and sent to the governor without a vote being taken in the Senate.
Democratic Rep. Sharon Treat of Hallowell, who voted for the measure, said the governor should be held accountable for spreading false information.
“It’s not about what’s truthful. It’s about using a topic to score political points, and it just bothers me,” she said. “It’s just completely inaccurate, and it offends me.”
Democrats did oppose several of LePage’s welfare-related efforts last session, including a measure that would have prevented EBT cards from being used to buy things like alcohol and cigarettes. They said that would be nearly impossible to enforce.
Adrienne Bennett, a spokeswoman for LePage, said in an email that Democrats are playing semantics and that the address is correct.
She said the 2012 law didn’t require the administration to mechanically block the ATMs. When Democrats heard the administration was doing so, they attacked it for taking so long, she said.
“They claim they don’t want to see welfare fraud, but they rejected all of the governor’s common-sense bills. They say they support the 2012 law, then object to how and when we try to enforce it,” she said.