Report: Fla welfare drug testing law not saving money

A report by the local WFTV showed Florida’s program that requires welfare applicants to undergo drug testing is actually costing taxpayers more than it claimed it would save. The reporter on the story noted he found “very little” applicants in the program since it went into affect on July 1.

The Department of Central Florida’s (DCF) region tested 40 applicants and only two tested positive for drugs, officials said. One of the tests is being appealed. Governor Rick Scott said the program would save money. Critics said it already looks like a boondoggle.”We have a diminishing amount of returns for our tax dollars. Do we want out governor throwing our precious tax dollars into a program that has already been proven not to work?” Derek Brett of the ACLU said.

DCF said it has been referring applicants to clinics where drug screenings cost between $30 and $35. The applicant pays for the test out of his or her own pocket and then the state reimburses him if they test comes back negative.

Therefore, the 38 applicants in the Central Florida area, who tested negative, were reimbursed at least $30 each and cost taxpayers $1,140. 

Meanwhile, the state is saving less than $240 a month by refusing benefits to those two applicants who tested positive.

The article noted how a similar program in Idaho, which the news station also found that the restrictions did not yield savings to taxpayers, was not only about how much money would save, but one about “principles.” Gov. Scott implied the same point when he signed the law, according to an article I linked in an earlier post I did on the subject.

“It’s the right thing for taxpayers,” Scott said after signing the measure. “It’s the right thing for citizens of this state that need public assistance. We don’t want to waste tax dollars. And also, we want to give people an incentive to not use drugs.”

I clearly stated my opinion about this law in my earlier post linked above, so I won’t dive back into that issue. However, I do want to address the notion of costly state laws that are claimed to be about saving taxpayers money and about ambiguous “principles.” As a taxpayer, my primary concern on a state level would be for legislatures and governors to come up with enough revenue via cuts or elimination of wasteful programs to fill a budgetary gap. As a progressive liberal with a very, very slight libertarian streak, I would not want my tax dollars to go to a program designed to create unnecessary government loopholes and more bureaucracy in the name of sticking it to welfare recipients and others down on their luck.

I also find it ironic that Gov. Scott and other bleeding-heart conservatives openly proclaim their love of and advocacy for less government, but they widely embrace government intrusion and red tape when it comes to curtailing the lives of others.

In a time of many governments facing budgetary shortfalls and dwindling revenue, is it prudent and financially responsible to implement so-called cost saving programs that hide behind morals and principles, but create unnecessary burdens on who mainstream Americans deem as this country’s less fortunate? Does the principle of proving these welfare recipients are unworthy of taxpayer help and support genuinely outweigh the monetary constrains placed on the state budget?