Walker Wants to Drug Test Recipients of Public Assistance

Walker Wants to Drug Test Recipients of Public Assistance November 12, 2014

Now that Scott Walker has been reelected as governor of Wisconsin, he’s planning to make good on his promise during the campaign to institute a strict drug testing program for anyone who receives public assistance. Public officials, of course, will be exempted.

Wisconsin could have one of the nation’s most sweeping drug-testing requirements for those receiving public benefits if the proposal by Gov. Scott Walker to test those who apply for unemployment checks and food stamps becomes law.

But with scant details, it’s unclear whether any expansion beyond the current testing of drug felons would be allowed under federal law governing the state’s FoodShare program. It’s also unclear how Wisconsin could craft any broad-based testing program for public benefits recipients that would be found constitutional.

The newly re-elected governor and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, both say a top priority of the upcoming legislative session is to require that recipients receiving food assistance and unemployment compensation be drug free to qualify for benefits.

In Wisconsin, an estimated 836,000 people receive FoodShare benefits, about 40 percent of them children, according to the state Department of Health Services. As of last week, 39,958 people had filed weekly unemployment compensation claims, according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

As part of his re-election campaign platform, Walker vowed to require “a drug test for those requesting unemployment and able-bodied, working-age adults requesting food stamps from the state.” But no further details, including the cost and scope of the proposal, were available last week from the Walker administration.

Spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said the governor will work with his Cabinet in the coming weeks “to craft a specific proposal,” which is designed toward “moving people from government dependence to independence.”

Such bullshit. As other states have found out, those on public assistance use drugs at a significantly lower rate than those who aren’t — so much so that it actually costs more to administer such a program than it saves. It’s also clearly unconstitutional under the 4th Amendment. And of course, it’s hypocritical. Can you imagine what Walker would say if someone proposed that all elected officials, government employees and executives from businesses who receive taxpayer funds and tax breaks must take a drug test? But those people receive taxpayer money too and in much larger amounts than those who get food stamps.

This is about one thing and one thing only: Scapegoating poor people and making them seem unworthy of our help.

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