Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Florida Taxpayers Bilked for Welfare Drug Test Costs by Republican Gov. Rick Scott

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Saturday, August 27, 2011

Updated October 27, 2012 – Readers should be aware there is now two years of data. The original story was published in 2011, and the three new stories added are from 2012, and show similar data – that being, that the cost of the program to mandate drug testing for all public assistance recipients in Florida – is unproductive and wasteful, and costs more in tax dollars and time wasted than it purports to save.

Dedicated to everyone who believes that merely because some people need a helping hand that they’re automatically suspect.

It’s not a crime to be poor. And Christ said, “The poor you will always have with you.”

The line of thinking on drug testing goes like this: A.) The exceeding majority of public assistance recipients are lazy, good-for-nothing drug abusers, so B.) Taking them off the dole will save hundreds of thousands – if not tens of millions of dollars, so C.) Make them pay up front to defend themselves against the blanket accusation, and reimburse them if they don’t “come up dirty.”

Turns out, however, that only a measly 2% of recipients have been positive. In other words, the vast and exceeding majority of public assistance recipients – 98% – are law-abiding, non-drug abusing citizens.

What does that mean for the good, hard-working, tax-paying people of Florida? Why, they’re on the hook to cough up some reimbursement money to the folks that paid up front to be tested. And at $43,200/month, that’s over $518,000/year. Not exactly chump change – especially in tough economic times.

Why, even the old Charlie Daniels song acknowledges that “A drunkard wants another drink of wine, and a politician wants a vote.” And besides, think about it: Would a druggie want to support a child, or feed a family? C’mon… really? Would they? Or, would they rather have more money to buy drugs?

It’s a no-brainer, folks.

And the politician wants your vote.

Rick Scott Takes the Piss Out of Florida Taxpayers

Florida’s governor has his state paying for gallons of welfare recipients’ drug-free pee.

By Adam Weinstein on Thu. August 25, 2011 10:40 AM PDT

Photo by Publik15 / via Flickr

Florida’s neophyte Republican governor, tea-party-friendly Rick Scott, signed a bill back in June requiring the state’s welfare recipients to undergo drug-testing urinalysis before collecting their monthly assistance check of around$241-to-$303. The measure, he said, would save taxpayer money by barring drug addicts from getting the dole. “Studies show that people that are on welfare are higher users of drugs than people not on welfare,” he said.

Florida’s welfare recipients are proving that Scott’s assumption wasn’t worth a warm bucket of pee. Now, the state is effectively being forced to pay for 11.5 gallons of welfare applicants’ drug-free urine every month, to the tune of around $34,000.

Of the 1,000 or so recipients who have taken the required drug tests (at their own expense) since early July, only 2 percent have tested positive for drugs, according to theTampa Tribune. That’s well below the national population’s average, and it’s so low that the testing plan—which was expected to cost $187 million by some analysts’ estimates—could end up costing taxpayers even more in the long run.

The way it was supposed to work, according to Scott and other supporters, was this: Everyone who took the test at a state-approved private lab (PDF) would have to pay for it out of pocket. (Never mind where a poor Floridian is supposed to scrape together 25 to 30 percent of their monthly benefit on their own.) If they tested negative for illegal drugs, they’d be reimbursed for the urinalysis, anywhere from $10 to $82, in their welfare check. Drug addicts would be out the testing cost and barred from receiving benefits for a year. The theory, then, was that the presumably huge population of drug-addled free riders would be kicked off the bus, and Florida would reap the savings. (The plan was briefly held up when it came to light that a health care firm started by Scott, Solantic, could get a contract for the urinalysis.)

But with 96 percent of applicants passing the test with flying colors (and another 2 percent getting inconclusive results), the state is having to buy back a lot of clean pee: 11.5 gallons at $34,300 every month, assuming an average sample size of 1.5 ounces and and average test price of $35. Not only that, butFlorida’s rules allow parents who fail the test to designate another adult who can collect the benefits on behalf of any dependent children. And since the state’s welfare program is oriented toward families, it seems likely that most of the failures’ benefits will still be paid out to someone. (Given the scarce numbers offered by the Florida Department of Children and Families, it’s also not immediately clear whether the amount of applicants for assistance changed significantly after the whiz quizzes were instituted.)

Local reporters around the state have run smaller investigations and found the economics to be grim. TV station WFTV found that 40 applicants were tested in Central Florida, and two popped positive for drugs. The testing cost to taxpayers was at least $1,140; the theoretical savings in benefits to the two who failed was $240—at most. “We have a diminishing amount of returns for our tax dollars,” ACLU spokesmanattorney Derek Brett, an opponent of the drug plan, told WFTV.* “Do we want our governor throwing our precious tax dollars into a program that has already been proven not to work?”

The Tribune engaged in some creative accounting to show that the testing program could still show a modest net savings on benefits payments, of roughly $40,000 to $60,000 a year in total, or half ofwhat most senior staffers in Gov. Scott’s office make. But that doesn’t take into account the state’s costs to process the test results and administer the program, which nobody seems to know yet—least of all the governor who sold state residents on the idea. “We don’t have a dollar cost estimate at this time,” Scott’s spokesman said on June 6…five six days after Scott signed the bill into law.* (Interestingly, Florida requires all state ballot initiatives to be accompanied by an estimate of the proposals’ financial impacts; Scott and the Legislature, though, don’t have to do any such calculations for their bills.)

Despite Florida conservatives’ miscalculations—miscalculations that critics say are based on bogus stereotypes—many states are considering following its lead on drug tests for welfare applicants. Last spring, Idaho’s Legislature commissioned a study on the subject, which found that the plan would end up costing more than it took in.

But then, Idaho analysts also assumed the state would put its failures in publicly financed drug-counseling programs. By contrast, Florida’s welfare information sitestresses that the state “does not pay or reimburse for the cost of drug treatment programs.”

http://m.motherjones.com/mojo/2011/08/florida-welfare-drug-test-costs

April 17, 2012

No Savings Are Found From Welfare Drug Tests

By

MIAMI — Ushered in amid promises that it would save taxpayers money and deter drug users, a Florida law requiring drug tests for people who seek welfare benefits resulted in no direct savings, snared few drug users and had no effect on the number of applications, according to recently released state data.

“Many states are considering following Florida’s example, and the new data from the state shows they shouldn’t,” said Derek Newton, communications director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which sued the state last year to stop the testing and recently obtained the documents. “Not only is it unconstitutional and an invasion of privacy, but it doesn’t save money, as was proposed.”

This week, Georgia instituted a nearly identical law, with supporters saying it would foster greater personal responsibility and save money. As in Florida, the law is expected to draw a legal challenge. The Southern Center for Human Rights, based in Atlanta, said it expected to file a lawsuit once the law takes effect in the next several months. A number of other states are considering similar bills.

The Florida civil liberties group sued the state last year, arguing that the law constituted an “unreasonable search” by the government, a violation of the Fourth Amendment. In issuing a temporary injunction in October, Judge Mary S. Scriven of Federal District Court scolded lawmakers and said the law “appears likely to be deemed a constitutional infringement.”

From July through October in Florida — the four months when testing took place before Judge Scriven’s order — 2.6 percent of the state’s cash assistance applicants failed the drug test, or 108 of 4,086, according to the figures from the state obtained by the group. The most common reason was marijuana use. An additional 40 people canceled the tests without taking them.

Because the Florida law requires that applicants who pass the test be reimbursed for the cost, an average of $30, the cost to the state was $118,140. This is more than would have been paid out in benefits to the people who failed the test, Mr. Newton said.

As a result, the testing cost the government an extra $45,780, he said.

And the testing did not have the effect some predicted. An internal document about Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, caseloads stated that the drug testing policy, at least from July through September, did not lead to fewer cases.

“We saw no dampening effect on the caseload,” the document said.

But supporters of the law said four months of numbers did little to discredit an effort they said was based on common sense. Drug users, no matter their numbers, should not be allowed to use taxpayer money, they said.

“We had to stop allowing tax dollars for anybody to buy drugs with,” said State Representative Jimmie T. Smith, a Republican who sponsored the bill last year. Taxpayer savings also come in deterring those drug users who would otherwise apply for cash assistance but now think twice because of the law, some argued.

Chris Cinquemani, the vice president of the Foundation for Government Accountability, a Florida-based public policy group that advocates drug testing and recently made a presentation in Georgia, said more than saving money was at stake.

“The drug testing law was really meant to make sure that kids were protected,” he said, “that our money wasn’t going to addicts, that taxpayer generosity was being used on diapers and Wheaties and food and clothing.”

Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, who supported the measure last year, agreed.

“Governor Scott maintains his position that TANF dollars must be spent on TANF’s purposes — protecting children and getting people back to work,” said Jackie Schutz, the governor’s deputy press secretary.

Last month, Mr. Scott signed into law another drug testing measure, this one permitting state agencies to randomly test up to 10 percent of their employees. The tests can be conducted every 90 days and agencies can fire or discipline employees if they test positive for drugs.

The law, which the civil liberties group said it believes is unconstitutional, takes effect in July. The courts have largely upheld drug testing for workers with public safety jobs.

Florida didn’t save money by drug testing welfare recipients, data shows

By Brittany Alana Davis, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Published Wednesday, April 18, 2012


TALLAHASSEE — Required drug tests for people seeking welfare benefits ended up costing taxpayers more than it saved and failed to curb the number of prospective applicants, data used against the state in an ongoing legal battle shows.

The findings — that only 108 of the 4,086 people who took a drug test failed — are additional ammunition for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which sued the state and won a temporary ban on the drug-testing program in October, said ACLU spokesman Derek Newton.

Attorneys for the state immediately appealed the ban, and will face off against the ACLU again at the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta and the U.S. District Court in Orlando in coming months.

The costs and benefits of the law — and the outcome of the court case — could reverberate nationwide. This week, Georgia passed its own drug welfare law.

Since Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law last year, 25 states have considered similar legislation, Newton said.

Data about the law’s cost may impact the court of public opinion, but Jenn Meale, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said it won’t play a role in the legal proceedings.

That’s because ACLU’s case rests on whether the law violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens against “unreasonable searches” by the government.

“Any costs associated with the program are irrelevant to the analysis of whether the statute is constitutional,” Meale said.

Of the 4,086 applicants who scheduled drug tests while the law was enforced, 108 people, or 2.6 percent, failed, most often testing positive for marijuana. About 40 people scheduled tests but canceled them, according to the Department of Children and Families, which oversees Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, known as the TANF program.

The numbers, confirming previous estimates, show that taxpayers spent $118,140 to reimburse people for drug test costs, at an average of $35 per screening.

The state’s net loss? $45,780.

“That’s not counting attorneys and court fees and the thousands of hours of staff time it took to implement this policy,” Newton said.

The law also didn’t impact the number of people who applied for benefits.

The findings don’t ruffle supporters of the law, who say that its primary purpose is to make sure taxpayer money doesn’t supplement drug use.

“It’s not about money, it’s about the drug issue,” said Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Lecanto, who sponsored the legislation. “It’s about using every tool we have in the toolbox to fight drugs.”

Jackie Schutz, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office, said the governor agreed: The drug welfare law is about protecting children and getting parents back to work.

“It is important to ensure that people who receive TANF dollars use the cash assistance appropriately and not spend it on illegal drugs,” she said.

Smith said he believes the law helps keep people off drugs and that there’s undocumented savings in the form of less prison costs and fewer broken families.

He sponsored another bill in 2012, recently signed into law by Scott, to allow state agencies to drug test their employees and fire those who test positive.

That law is also expected to cost money and to yield lawsuits.

Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at bdavis@tampabay.com.

http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/florida-didnt-save-money-by-drug-testing-welfare-recipients-data-shows/1225721

Florida’s welfare drug tests cost more money than state saves, data shows

Brittany Alana Davis
The Miami Herald

Required drug tests for people seeking welfare benefits ended up costing taxpayers more than it saved and failed to curb the number of prospective applicants, data used against the state in an ongoing legal battle shows.The findings — that only 108 of the 4,086 people who took a drug test failed — are additional ammunition for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which sued the state and won a temporary ban on the drug-testing program in October, said ACLU spokesman Derek Newton.Attorneys for the state immediately appealed the ban, and will face off against the ACLU again at the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta and the U.S. District Court in Orlando in coming months.

The costs and benefits of the law — and the outcome of the court case — could reverberate nationwide. This week, Georgia passed its own drug welfare law.

Since Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law last year, 25 states have considered similar legislation, Newton said.

Data about the law’s cost may impact the court of public opinion, but Jenn Meale, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said it won’t play a role in the legal proceedings.

That’s because ACLU’s case rests on whether the law violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens against “unreasonable searches” by the government.

“Any costs associated with the program are irrelevant to the analysis of whether the statute is constitutional,” Meale said.

Of the 4,086 applicants who scheduled drug tests while the law was enforced, 108 people, or 2.6 percent, failed, most often testing positive for marijuana. About 40 people scheduled tests but canceled them, according to the Department of Children and Families, which oversees Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, known as the TANF program.

The numbers, confirming previous estimates, show that taxpayers spent $118,140 to reimburse people for drug test costs, at an average of $35 per screening.

The state’s net loss? $45,780.

“That’s not counting attorneys and court fees and the thousands of hours of staff time it took to implement this policy,” Newton said.

The law also didn’t impact the number of people who applied for benefits.

The findings don’t ruffle supporters of the law, who say that its primary purpose is to make sure taxpayer money doesn’t supplement drug use.

“It’s not about money, it’s about the drug issue,” said Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Lecanto, who sponsored the legislation. “It’s about using every tool we have in the toolbox to fight drugs.”

Jackie Schutz, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office, said the governor agreed: The drug welfare law is about protecting children and getting parents back to work.

“It is important to ensure that people who receive TANF dollars use the cash assistance appropriately and not spend it on illegal drugs,” she said.

Smith said he believes the law helps keep people off drugs and that there’s undocumented savings in the form of less prison costs and fewer broken families.

He sponsored another bill in 2012, recently signed into law by Scott, to allow state agencies to drug test their employees and fire those who test positive.

That law is also expected to cost money and to yield lawsuits.

http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/04/20/v-print/2758871/floridas-welfare-drug-tests-cost.html

3 Responses to “Florida Taxpayers Bilked for Welfare Drug Test Costs by Republican Gov. Rick Scott”

  1. [...] Florida Taxpayers Pissed at Republican Gov. Rick Scott (warmsouthernbreeze.wordpress.com) [...]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,096 other followers

%d bloggers like this: