Senator proposes bill to tax groceries, modify SNAP program

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ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico lawmaker wants to re-impose the food tax in New Mexico, but only on unhealthy food. He also wants to make sure those getting government assistance aren’t using the money to buy junk food.

Sen. Cliff Pirtle (R-Roswell) argues the tax would give local governments a key source of revenue and help people make healthier food choices.

If the senator gets his way, the days of buying sugary cereal, potato chips, cookies and soda with SNAP benefits will be coming to an end.

Sen. Pirtle is proposing Senate Bill 129, which includes two major changes.

“Returning the food stamp or SNAP program back to a staple food program. The other part is re-implementing the gross receipts tax on food while exempting staple foods,” Pirtle said.

The change to SNAP would require that benefits are only used on healthier food staples, like those included in the WIC program — things like whole grain pasta, whole wheat bread, and more nutritional cereals.

That would mean SNAP users wouldn’t be able to buy regular pasta, sugary cereals, sodas, chips or sweets. Some residents aren’t sure that’s the answer.

“I don’t believe you can control other people’s behavior, that’s my personal opinion. Nor, do I think you should. The state should not get involved in such things,” said Donna Johnson, Roswell resident.

On top of that, those unhealthy foods would be taxed for everyone. That’s something not all residents are on board with.

“They took the tax off under Richardson and he raised fees all over the place to cover that. So, if you want to tax food again, we’re not getting rid of the others we are just taking money away from people and I’m not in favor of that,” said Arthur Hartwell, Roswell resident.

WIC only covers corn and whole wheat tortillas. However, knowing the importance of flour tortillas in New Mexico, Sen. Pirtle has made an exception so that they wouldn’t be taxed and could still be purchased with EBT cards.

According to the state, about 511,000 New Mexicans received food assistance under the SNAP program last year.

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