On Tuesday Governor Perry and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst announced their support for drug testing applicants of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program. TANF was created to help families in need, particularly children, and already includes a provision that requires applicants to, “Train for a job or look for employment if capable” and, “not abuse drugs or alcohol.”
Texas has experimented with drug testing on a mass scale (High School athletes) and results have shown them to be a waste of taxpayer money. Earlier this year courts struck down Florida's law that drug tested TANF applicants as unconstitutional, but the performance of the program itself makes the financial case for its failure. According to a New York Times report only 2% of applicants showed positive results costing the state almost 120,000 for a mere 4 months. The program ended up costing the state more to implement than it saved by denying benefits and did not reduce the total number of applicants.
Today (my father) State Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont) expressed his dismay that our state leaders would continue to propose laws that harass Texans who are struggling the most. He suggested that elected officials be drug tested to prove tax dollars aren't going to “drug abusers”, but why stop there? What about students who receive financial aid, small business loan applicants or those seeking veteran benefits or Social Security?
Below is Rep. Deshotel's statement in full:
Senate Bill 11 is both fiscally and morally irresponsible. Its even more egregious that it comes at a time of slow economic recovery and while Texas has almost twice the national average of uninsured children. It would violate personal privacy, ignore the presumption of innocence, and continue the Legislature's expansion of government into our personal lives.
There is no evidence that poor people abuse drugs more frequently than any other socio-economic group, therefore I challenge Senator Nelson, Governor Perry and Lt. Governor Dewhurst to support adding a drug test requirement to the application to run for state office in Texas. Many office holders in Texas draw larger incomes from the state than any welfare recipient and officials should adhere to the same standard we impose on our constituents. This would help ensure our leaders “walk the walk” and that taxpayer money isn't , “going into the pockets of drug abusers,” as is the concern of our Governor.
The Governor's comments Tuesday also ignore the high cost of drug testing. Between 2007 and 2010, with a $3 million annual budget, Texas conducted over 51,000 drug test on student athletes with only 21 positive results. Most of the funding for this effort was cut after it proved to be at best – an inefficient use of resources. In October of 2012 alone there were over 45,000 applicants to TANF and I have not heard a plan to pay for the expanded testing program. Texas taxpayers would benefit most if its state leaders kept their focus on the economy and education instead of making cynical attempts to legislate people's personal decisions.