Republican Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation last Friday that would require welfare recipients or applicants suspected of drug use to undergo mandatory drug testing. As noted in the Washington Times, the law is to be implemented as a one-year pilot program in three counties of the state.
If a person tests positive for drugs they will be referred to a treatment program and required to submit periodic drug tests. Refusal to participate in the rehab program will result in a termination of welfare benefits. But benefits can be restored after a person submits a clean drug test.
Snyder is quoting as saying via a statement to the press that the program is designed to help people get clean so they can get good jobs:
We want to remove the barriers that are keeping people from getting good jobs, supporting their families and living independently. This pilot program is intended to help ensure recipients get the wrap-around services they need to overcome drug addiction and lead successful lives. We’ll then have opportunity to assess effectiveness and outcomes.
Needless to say, the initiative has its opponents. The Senate Fiscal Agency — which describes itself as “a nonpartisan legislative agency created to provide the Michigan Senate with sound and unbiased assistance” — notes that the program would cost between $700,000 and $3.4 million but save taxpayers between $370,000 and $3.7 million in caseload reductions. Of course, if the higher number in each range is realized, the state will save a third of a million dollars.
Then there’s backlash from state Democrats. One of them, Sen. Vincent Gregory, is quoted as saying:
We give out tax credits to schools, we give out tax credits to students, we give out tax credits to police and fire [departments]. And yet the only [group] that we are now saying is subject to drug screening are the poor — the poorest of the poor.