When the state’s leaders decide to implement drug testing of the state’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens–those who are trying to get by on unemployment and/or welfare benefits–they might as well hang a sign in the rotunda that says “OUT OF IDEAS.” We have so many problems in this state, and this is what Rick Perry and David Dewhurst come up with? Pathetic. It might have occurred to Dewhurst that his costly initiative for steroid testing was a complete flop: 51,635 tests done over the last 2½ years, which resulted in 21 positive tests, 2 unresolved, and 139 not passing for procedure violations, such as unexcused absences. Last spring, all 3,308 tests were clean.
Florida’s experience with drug testing should end the discussion over whether this policy makes sense. From the New York Times:
Ushered in amid promises that it would save taxpayers money and deter drug users, a Florida law requiring drug tests for people who seek welfare benefits resulted in no direct savings, snared few drug users and had no effect on the number of applications, according to recently released state data.
The numbers from Florida: 108 of 4,086 applicants failed the drug test, or 2.6%.
When the same proposal came up in Colorado, according to the Denver Post, an analysis by the non-partisan Colorado legislative council found that when costs and savings were accounted for, the policy change would have added $219,520 to Colorado’s budget, and it would have forced counties to spend $482,600. What did lawmakers in Colorado do? They rejected the proposal.
If the drug-testing proposal becomes law in Texas, it will almost certainly be challenged in court, as it has been in other states, adding to the millions of dollars Texas has spent on litigation. But the biggest problem with drug testing is that the real victims are not the applicants who fail the test, but their children, who will lose the meager benefits the state provides.