State News

Walker’s controversial plan to drug test food stamp recipients moves forward

Gov. Scott Walker announced Monday he is moving forward with a plan to drug test food stamp applicants.

Image By: Betsy Osterberger and Betsy Osterberger

Gov. Scott Walker is moving forward with a plan to drug test food stamp recipients, disregarding critics who say such an effort is a waste of taxpayer money, based on false stereotypes of welfare recipients, and unconstitutional.

If the plan goes through, Wisconsin would be the first state to drug test able-bodied adults applying for food stamps. Each time other states have tried to mandate such a test, the measures have been found unconstitutional or struck down by the federal government.

The state Legislature approved Walker’s plan more than two years ago but it has sputtered because of conflicts with federal guidelines that disallow additional criteria for giving citizens food stamps. Walker has now submitted a plan that would go into effect in 120 days, barring objection from the Legislature.

If Walker’s measure does succeed, it would take more than a year for testing to start, during which the law could be struck down by courts.

The Walker administration said in October it estimates just 0.3 percent of food stamp applicants would fail the drug test — roughly 220 out of 67,400 total applicants. Such estimates are why critics say the money and infrastructure that would be used for drug testing could be better spent elsewhere.

“This is punitive, this is probably unconstitutional and this is going to cost us money,” State Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said of the measure in 2015.

Walker, however, does not see it that way. In a statement Monday, he said “employers have jobs available, but they need skilled workers who can pass a drug test.”

“This rule change means people battling substance use disorders will be able to get the help they need to get healthy, and get back into the workforce,” Walker said.

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