INDIANAPOLIS | The Republican-controlled Indiana House voted 78-17 Monday to spend $2.7 million next year on a drug testing program for some welfare recipients that may save the state $1.5 million in denied benefits.
House Bill 1483, which now goes to the Senate, requires recipients of Temporary Aid for Needy Families benefits take a written test that determines their propensity to use drugs with 90 percent accuracy.
Test takers with a high probability of substance abuse would then have a 50-50 chance of being forced to take a drug test.
Those testing positive for drugs could continue receiving welfare payments so long as they are enrolled in a drug treatment program, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and produce negative results on future drug tests.
Repeated positive drug tests could result in permanently lost benefits.
The sponsor of the legislation, state Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookston, said his goal isn't to punish people, or kick them off welfare, but to get drug users help.
State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, was skeptical of that claim and wondered why McMillin didn't include state lawmakers in his drug testing plan like McMillin did last year when the measure died in the Senate.
"When we do not we make it appear as though we are elitists and that we are above our very own constituents," Brown said. "This to me is offensive."
A similar program in Florida found less than 3 percent of welfare recipients tested positive for drugs. Florida lost $45,780 on its program before it was declared unconstitutional by a federal court.