AUGUSTA — Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s administration urged lawmakers Thursday to support a bill that seeks to allow the state to prevent people in the food stamp program from using benefits to buy items like soda, chips and candy.

Bethany Hamm, director of the Office of Family Independence, told the Health and Human Services Committee that taxpayer dollars should be used to help low-income families buy nutritious foods – not those fueling the country’s obesity problem.

Republican Sen. Roger Katz’s bill would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to request a waiver from the federal government to prohibit the purchase of taxable food items, like candy bars, iced tea and soft drinks. Items considered staples, like bread, aren’t taxed.

A similar measure was defeated in 2013, but Katz predicted more lawmakers will be on board now.

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