VA Week in Review: Immigration policy, welfare mysteries make headlines


By Bre Payton | Virginia Bureau

HEADLINES: A conservative is challenging Eric Cantor’s in a primary fight, and much of Virginia’s welfare spending remains a mystery to taxpayers

Welfare spending remains a mystery, and ‘crony’ immigration policy dominated the headlines this week.

Rep. Eric Cantor’s stance on immigration led one conservative to challenge him in a primary fight. Virginia doesn’t keep track of whether welfare recipients are following the rules, and the state isn’t allowing taxpayers to look at how those dollars are being spent.

This is your week in review:

GOP challenger rips ‘crony’ Cantor on immigration
Dave Brat is challenging Rep. Eric Cantor in a Republican primary, and Brat is giving the House majority leader a verbal thrashing on immigration.

“Cantor is following the agenda of the Business Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce — pursuing policies that are good for big business but come at the exclusion of the American people,” said Brat, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College.

Brat’s upstart bid against the second highest-ranking House Republican may seem quixotic. But it’s part of a growing national movement to oust GOP leaders who fail conservative litmus tests.

Hands off: Taxpayers can’t check SNAP expenditures
American taxpayers spent $76 billion on food-stamp programs in fiscal 2013, and more than one in 10 Virginians is enrolled.

But any transaction data on what people are buying with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program dollars — or even how much individual retailers are getting in payments from the feds — is off-limits to the taxpayers footing the bill.

As TANF remains a mystery, Virginia aims for more accountability with WIC
Virginia has no way to track whether residents and retailers are following the law when it comes to keeping the most basic form of welfare benefits out of casinos and strip clubs.

That hasn’t prevented Virginia’s Department of Health from adding a little more accountability to the Women, Infant and Children, or WIC, nutrition benefits program in Virginia. After launching a pilot program that transferred benefits from paper cards to electronic benefits cards in one health district in southern Virginia, the department will roll out its EBT cards for WIC statewide in March.

Virginia AG’s office says public can’t access food stamp data

Virginia’s top constitutional authority reiterated Thursday what state and federal officials have said before: When it comes to food stamp data, federal law prohibits public access.

Virginia’s Department of Social Services officially responded’s Freedom of Information Act request filed earlier in the week, saying they referred the matter to Attorney General Mark Herring’s office. sought the date and time, location and amount of transactions made from July 1, 2013, through Sept. 1, 2013, in Richmond with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

Virginia’s DSS and Treasury Department say they have no way to access, track or audit TANF transactions to make sure they aren’t being used on illegal items.

House rules: VA won’t expand ‘broken’ Medicaid in ‘14
Encircled by Democrats pushing hard for Medicaid expansion, the Republican-controlled House of Delegates is stiffening in opposition.

“Medicaid is a complicated system with a lot of moving parts — and the dollars keep changing,” said Republican Delegate Steve Landes.

The vice chairman of the state Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission told Watchdog that no one — including Gov. Terry McAuliffe — knows the fiscal impact of expanding the multibillion-dollar indigent-care program in Virginia.

Contact Bre Payton at or follow her on Twitter @Bre_payton.

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