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Poor people have too much. Let’s take their urine.

15 September 2011

On July 1st, 2011, the state of Florida began to enforce new legislation requiring that all applicants to welfare programs are tested for illegal drug use before being granted benefits.

When a person applies for welfare benefits they must first pay for laboratory testing of a urine sample out of pocket and then, if the test results are negative, the state reimburses the individual upon the approval of their application.

Governor Rick Scott

This legislation came on the heels of numerous public remarks by Scott stating that “people on welfare use drugs at a higher rate than those in the general population.”

There has been a lot of backlash to this law for a number of reasons. One of the most contentious being the blatant unconstitutionality of it.  The fourth amendment guards against unreasonable searches and seizures.  This law is a clear violation of one’s right to privacy and is based entirely upon the premise that all people who find themselves in a temporary and unfortunate financial situation are drug addicts.

Another argument against this law was the ethical conflict created by Rick Scott when he invested $62 million in his own money into the very same drug company he co-founded and contracted to perform all of the state’s drug testing – Solantic.  When people began speaking out against this unethical behavior, Rick Scott transferred those investments to his wife’s name in an effort to distance himself from the controversy.

…but I digress from the moral and ethical arguments.  Let’s talk numbers. After all, the entire purpose of this legislation is to save the tax payers money.  Right?

It turns out, 96% of welfare applicants tested since July 1st are drug-free.  2% are testing positive and 2% are not completing the test and/or application for unspecified reasons.

If only 2% are testing positive, is the program cost effective?

Rick Scott's Company, Solantic

The Tampa Tribune’s assessment of how much the state will pay went a little something like this:

Cost of the tests averages about $30. Assuming that 1,000 to 1,500 applicants take the test every month, the state will owe about $28,800-$43,200 monthly in reimbursements to those who test drug-free.

That compares with roughly $32,200-$48,200 the state may save on one month’s worth of rejected applicants.

Net savings to the state: $3,400 to $5,000 annually on one month’s worth of rejected applicants. Over 12 months, the money saved on all rejected applicants would add up to $40,800 to $60,000 for a program that state analysts have predicted will cost $178 million this fiscal year.

One hundred and seventy eight million dollars per year more than the state was spending when it wasn’t in the business of illegally searching private citizens.

In an odd way, maybe we should thank Rick Scott for finally putting the welfare stereotype, drug-addicted single mothers of six, to rest…  96% of welfare recipients are drug free.

…but really, this was never about saving Florida tax payers money – was it?  It’s pretty clear it was always about making the Scott family another hundred million dollars at our expense.

What can you do?
Contact Governor Scott‘s office and demand that your tax dollars on not wasted on failed programs.  Insist that, in a time of extreme unemployment and diminishing state revenue, our focus must be on saving – not spending recklessly.

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