AUGUSTA — Maine’s tough-on-welfare governor wants to end the state’s current drug-testing policy in favor of something harsher: banning food stamps and cash assistance for anyone convicted of a drug felony in the past two decades.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s office says he wants to replace the policy for those convicted of drug felonies with so-called suspicion-based testing. His idea is included in his two-year, $6.8 billion budget proposal, and comes as recreational marijuana becomes legal in the state.

His office didn’t provide more details on his suspicion-based drug-testing proposal, which states including Kansas and Tennessee have adopted. Kansas’ policy figures out which recipients to test based on indicators such as employment records or visual observation of drug use. It then tests for substances such as opiates and marijuana.

Similar proposals by LePage and his Republican allies have failed in the Legislature in years past, and his latest attempt is opposed by advocacy groups that say it’s erroneous to assume everyone with a felony conviction is a serious drug offender.

“This is about taking food assistance away from children, and punishing people for their entire lives because of a drug conviction in their past,” said Oamshri Amarasingham, advocacy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. She said suspicion-based testing “singles out poor people for different treatment than anyone else who benefits from taxpayer dollars” and “without any regard for their privacy and due process rights.”

A recent Congressional Research Service report showed that three states have lifetime bans on both cash benefits and food stamps for people with felony drug convictions.

LePage has made welfare reform a priority since his first gubernatorial campaign, in 2010, and his re-election in 2014. His administration says it has uncovered millions of dollars in welfare fraud, trimmed welfare rolls and blocked the use of welfare benefits at ATMs in strip clubs and liquor stores.

“Everyone who came off welfare we’ve been tracking and they are earning today 114 percent more than they ever have in their lives,” he told a crowd in Biddeford this week.

The governor has defended his policies as focusing state resources on the elderly, disabled and mentally ill.

Last year, Maine Democrats supported an idea long backed by LePage and Republicans, to ban welfare recipients from using cash withdrawn from EBT cards for lottery tickets, cigarettes and other purposes. And in 2011, Democrats and Republicans agreed to drug-test drug felons after Republicans called for random drug-testing for all welfare recipients.

From April through June 2015, one Maine welfare recipient tested positive for drugs. State officials haven’t provided more recent data to The Associated Press.

In response to the state’s growing opioid crisis, LePage’s administration recently announced an additional 359 medication-assisted treatment slots. The governor has also opposed lawmakers’ push to expand access to syringes and the overdose antidote naloxone, saying, “Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose.”

Sen. Troy Jackson, the Democratic Senate minority leader, said the governor’s new proposal is “just wrong” and the focus should be on treatment, education, outreach and prevention.

“Even if we think people involved in the drug trade shouldn’t get welfare, this policy wouldn’t only affect them,” he said. “It would also punish people who got in trouble years ago, served their sentence and got clean.”

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