Gov. Chris Christie yesterday conditionally vetoed a bill that would have expanded assistance to pay energy bills to more than a hundred thousand low-income households qualifying for food stamps.
In refusing to sign the legislation, the governor said the bill (A-1210) failed to require individuals demonstrate some sort of energy expense in order to receive benefits from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
In his recommendations for changing the bill, Christie noted that, for ease of administration, federal law authorizes SNAP enrollees to receive enhanced benefits through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
“To be eligible for LIHEAP benefits, individuals must be able to show some sort of actual energy expense,’’ Christie said in the conditional veto. Not to do would be fraud, the governor said, noting the Obama administration has issued a directive that the practice advocated by the bill is strictly prohibited by federal law.
He urged the bill be amended to guarantee that those individuals eligible for energy assistance under the program receive a minimum $21 benefit.
Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera (D-Gloucester), the sponsor of the bill, criticized Christie’s veto.
“The governor has once again turned his back on the people who need our help the most,’’ she said, in an apparent reference to Christie’s veto of a similar bill in the last legislative session.
“While most other states affected by this made the necessary changes to ensure their residents continued to receive the help they needed, our governor has done the opposite,’’ Mosquera said.
In his message, Christie noted his administration has expanded program eligibility to allow more people to access SNAP benefits. “I cannot sign into law a practice deemed illegal by the federal government and prohibited specifically by the Obama administration,’’ he said.
About 160,000 New Jersey households are affected by the action.