Should the state mandate drug testing for welfare recipients?

money-newlinksSenate Democrats are drawing attention today to a vote in the Senate Finance Committee advancing legislation introduced by Republican State Sen. Bill Carrico that instucts localities to subject “suspicious” welfare recipients to drug tests.

The vote was highlighted in a press release from the Senate Democratic Caucus. The tone of the release seemed to indicate a strong feeling that there wouldn’t be public support for the measure, but is that the case?

“Why are Republicans so suspicious of poor people? It begs the question,” said State Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), who would answer the above question in the affirmative, clearly.

“This is insulting. The fact is, very few of those who qualify for temporary public assistance use illegal drugs. When other states have subjected the very poor to drug tests, they’ve wasted the taxpayers’ money,” Lucas said.

A 2012 Quinnipiac University poll had 75 percent of Virginians supporting mandatory drug testing of welfare recipients. The program would cost state taxpayers an estimated $1.3 million annually, according to a fiscal-impact statement attached to similar legislation filed last year.

“We give money to plenty of organizations and people without suspecting them of using drugs. Why aren’t we drug testing the employees of Virginia companies to which we give big tax credits? What about the CEOs of companies that have state contracts? I am deeply disappointed in Republican senators who just don’t appear to respect the work ethic of poor Virginians,” said State Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton).

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