EDITORIAL: Drug screening for welfare has failed test

2014-01-13T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Drug screening for welfare has failed test nwitimes.com
January 13, 2014 12:00 am  • 

House Speaker Brian Bosma is eager to require drug tests for welfare recipients. It's an idea that has been tested and failed.

But Bosma said Thursday he will "enthusiastically endorse" legislation to be filed today by state Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, that Bosma deemed "entitlement reform through drug testing."

McMillin has tried three times to require the 27,000 recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits to submit to drug testing as a condition of receiving public aid.

Last year, the nonprofit Legislative Services Agency said the program would cost more than $3 million per year, yet the state would recoup only $215,000 from positive tests.

If the state has an extra $3 million to burn, it could extend TANF benefits to more Hoosiers.

Recipients of this assistance are not just poor, they're very poor. A two-person family, such as a mother and child, would have to earn less than $5,661 a year and have less than $1,000 in assets to qualify for TANF funds.

Bosma wants to "ensure public money is being used for the purpose intended and not for other purposes." Fair enough. But no such restrictions apply to other recipients of public money, such as state government employees.

Why single out TANF recipients? Where's the evidence that beneficiaries are more likely than the general public to use illegal drugs?

Florida had a similar drug testing program that was stopped after four months, halted by a court order. During that time, fewer than 3 percent of the tests were positive.

Last month, a federal judge ruled Florida's law was unconstitutional. Why should Indiana try the same thing and expect different results?

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