In a move that was quickly contested by Democrats, Republicans on May 15 attempted to add another controversial policy to John Kasich’s mid-biennium budget review: drug testing for welfare recipients.
The proposed program would have been active in three counties for two years and would have required anyone suspected of using drugs to submit to and pay for a drug test. Those who passed would have been reimbursed for the drug test, and those who failed would not have been eligible for welfare benefits for at least six months.
GOP leaders, who introduced the provision in the Ohio Senate, claimed the program would have saved the state money.
But Democrats argued against the amendment, and the Republican-controlled Senate Finance Committee removed the measure from the much-larger House Bill 487 May 16.
Republicans say they will introduce the provision as a standalone bill later.
Republican Sen. Tim Schaffer introduced the drug-testing requirement to Ohio with Senate Bill 69 early last year. That bill never passed committee approval.
A drug-testing program in Florida actually cost the state money. In Florida, the state government’s program had a net loss of $45,780 after it reimbursed all falsely accused welfare recipients for their drug tests. Only 108 people out of the 4,086 accused, or 2.9 percent, tested positive, and most tested positive for marijuana, according to The Miami Herald.
One Senate Democrat told The Columbus Dispatch last week that if welfare recipients are to be tested, so should corporations that receive public funds because there is “no evidence” that poor people have higher rates of drug abuse.
That claim is supported by the limited research in the area. One study by California’s Healthy Kids Survey in 2007 found affluent kids have higher rates of drug use than poor kids. Another study by the National Institutes of Health in 1996 found that welfare recipients are not more likely to do drugs in comparison to the rest of the population and non-welfare recipients.