Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

September 19, 2011

Drug Testing Welfare Recipients Saves Taxpayer Money

Oklahoma House of Representatives

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma — Drug testing welfare recipients saved Florida taxpayers nearly $1 million in the first month of implementation, leading two Oklahoma lawmakers to announce they will re-file similar legislation in Oklahoma.

“Last year when I filed this bill as a freshman lawmaker, we were told that the Department of Human Services stood to lose federal money if we imposed drug test at the state level,” said state Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw. “Officials in Florida weren’t as timid and it is clear the program has been a huge success in just its first two months. As a result, we will try to advance this common-sense reform in Oklahoma again during the 2012 session.

According to a report issued by the Foundation for Government Accountability, the drug-testing requirement for Florida residents seeking state aid has resulted in denial of taxpayer-funded assistance to 9.6 percent of applicants, saving $923,000 in the first month of the law’s implementation. Florida implemented the program this summer.

The program is projected to save Florida taxpayers up to $9.1 million annually with $5.71 in savings generated for every $1 spent to administer the drug-testing program.

Bennett said he and state Rep. Guy Liebmann (R-Oklahoma City) are working to draft new legislation to require recipients of state aid to undergo routine drug tests as a condition of eligibility.

“If we as taxpayers are basically employing the recipients of welfare, the taxpayers should have a guarantee their money is not being abused by the recipient,” Liebmann said. “Taxpayer money should not subsidize someone’s drug habit.”

During the 2011 session, Bennett filed House Bill 1083 to require those applying for state-provided assistance to undergo urine screening for illicit drugs upon initial application and then every six months following.

The cost of the test would have been deducted from the first payment to the applicant if he or she passes.

 Under that bill, any applicant failing or refusing to take a drug test would have forfeited eligibility for state-provided benefits for the next 90 days. An applicant who failed a drug test while receiving benefits would have been ineligible for further benefits for one year.

Under the bill, the decision to deny services could have been appealed and overturned if the applicant could show the testing process was faulty.

Bennett urged Oklahomans who support the bill to contact their local representative and senator to voice their support and urge their lawmakers to sign on as co-authors.

“It makes no sense to waste taxpayer funds on drug addicts at a time when schools face budget cuts and we struggle to maintain our roads and bridges,” Bennett said. “It is now undeniable that drug-testing welfare recipients would eliminate unnecessary waste and free up limited dollars for better uses.”