EDITORIAL: Drug testing for welfare doesn't add up

2013-03-03T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Drug testing for welfare doesn't add up nwitimes.com
March 03, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Testing welfare recipients for drug use is a popular cause, but the dollars and cents don't add up.

That doesn't stop Indiana lawmakers from trying, however. 

The Indiana House voted 78-17 Monday to spend $2.7 million next year on a drug testing program that could save the state $1.5 million in denied benefits.

House Bill 1483 requires recipients of Temporary Aid for Needy Families to take a written test that will help determine who to consider for a drug test.

Of the test-takers considered to have a high probability of substance abuse, about half would be forced to take a drug test.

Those who test positive for drugs could continue to receive benefits if they enroll in a drug treatment program and future test results are negative.

We're all for drug abusers getting treatment, but this proposal by state Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookston, doesn't even have the extra sweetener he added last year, when state lawmakers were included in his drug testing plan.

"When we do not we make it appear as though we are elitists and that we are above our very own constituents," state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, said. "This to me is offensive."

A federal court found a similar program offensive last year in Florida. That court declared the program unconstitutional.

Florida found less than 3 percent of welfare recipients tested positive for drugs.  

Few people are caught this way, and it's a very expensive process. Indiana's plan, as outlined in House Bill 1483, would cost the state $1.2 million more than the state would save in denied benefits. So why risk the likely legal challenge?

Indiana needs fiscal prudence more than it needs this drug testing program. The Senate should kill this bill.

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