Drug Testing Of Public Assistance Recipients Issue

Walker wants drug testing of public assistance recipients in state budget

MADISON (WKOW) — Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) is working to fulfill a campaign promise by requiring people to submit to drug testing before they can receive some public assistance benefits.

The Governor released some details of his 2015-17 budget request Thursday morning. He plans to formally introduce the budget in an address to the state on February 3.

Benefits like W-2 welfare, Food Share, Medicaid and unemployment insurance would only be available to people who can pass a drug test under the plan put forward by Governor Walker.

“We’re not making it harder to get government assistance, we’re making it easier to get a job,” Gov. Walker told reporters at a manufacturing facility in DePere Thursday.

The Governor said employers around the state have told him repeatedly they can’t find enough employees who can pass a drug test.

Those who fail the state-administered drug tests would lose their benefits, but would then be able to enter a state-paid drug treatment program according to Gov. Walker.

“If we get them drug-free and we get them the skills – we see everyday there are now thousands of jobs available in every part of the state of Wisconsin – and we get them ready for those jobs over a two-year period they’re gonna be in the workforce and off our assistance quicker,” said Gov. Walker.

That’s why the Gov. Walker believes the plan would be cost neutral, because the money spent on administering the drug tests would be made up in savings from fewer benefits being paid out.

Top Democrats tell 27 News they need to see more details on the plan, but they are skeptical.

“We look forward to the debate. I’m sure the process will be fair – I’m not so sure we’ll agree on the outcome,” said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha).

Even if the provision stays in the budget and gets through the legislature, there are still some questions about whether or not it would be legal. Just last month a federal appeals court ruled a similar program in Florida to be unconstitutional, because it discriminated against an entire class of people and the state failed to show a substantial need that every recipient had to be tested.

But the Governor says under his plan not every recipient would get tested.

“There’s screenings that have been done in other states quite effectively where there is a series of questions and answers,” said Gov. Walker. “You can start to narrow people who are more likely to have a challenge with a drug addiction and do the testing with them and then offer the assistance.”

To put the drug testing plan in place for Medicaid and Food Share recipients Wisconsin would need a waiver from the federal government, something Gov. Walker will ask for if it is approved.

The release goes on to state, “those who fail the drug test will be offered the opportunity to participate in a drug treatment program, free of charge, as well as job training.”

The release does not provide details on how much such a plan would cost or how it would be funded.

The budget will also include a plan to cut the amount of time low-income parents can receive benefits under the the Wisconsin Works program from 60 to 48 months. Wisconsin Works helps parents with minor children who live below 115 percent of the federal poverty level to work with a financial and employment planner to develop an employability plan. Gov. Walker wants to cut the eligibility time to “encourage more rapid placement in jobs.”

But wait, the results are in, in Florida, where welfare recipients were drug tested, and look at this folks

florida welfare

January 24, 2015


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