Georgia’s controversial plan to mandate drug testing for all welfare recipients and other beneficiaries of government assistance got a big endorsement on Friday from Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney.
On a local NBC affiliate in Georgia, Romney said that he supported the measure:
Jeff Hullinger: [Lawmakers] have bantered about the proposition that welfare recipients should be drug tested. How do you feel about that?
Mitt Romney: Well my own view is, it’s a great idea. People who are receiving welfare benefits, government benefits, we should make sure they’re not using those benefits to pay for drugs. I think it’s an excellent idea.
Romney’s support for blindly drug-testing welfare recipients dates back at least two decades, to his failed 1994 campaign for the US Senate. Civil rights advocates, meanwhile, have been quick to challenge the constitutionality of drug testing bills that were passed last year, and courts blocked similar bills from being implemented in Florida and Michigan.
Rather than saving states money or ensuring taxpayer dollars aren’t used to purchase drugs, mandatory testing laws have succeeded only in proving that welfare recipients are actually less likely to use drugs than the public at large, and implementing laws requiring drug testing is costing states like Florida money they don’t have.
The ACLU of Florida has estimated that the state saved just over $40,000 between July and October by denying residents welfare support based on their failure to pass a drug test, while it spent more than $245,000 in reimbursements for the cost of the exam in the same time period.