OUR VIEW: Governor off the mark with welfare drug tests

By Daily News • Last Updated 10:40 am on Monday, January 16, 2012

Gov. Rick Snyder did a lot of things right during his first year in office. His proposal to require drug tests for all welfare recipients isn’t one of them.

Snyder argues the drug tests will determine whether welfare benefits are being spent in the right way — feeding, clothing and housing the neediest among us. That’s true, the drug tests would find anyone spending the public’s hard-earned money on a quick high.

However, many other common-sense warning signs would manifest the same conclusion. Namely, the drug user’s children wouldn’t be fed or clothed adequately, parenting would be lacking and utility bills wouldn’t be paid. Any astute observer would be able to recognize a problem in these areas without relying on a drug test.

Another problem with the drug testing proposal is the cost. Currently, about 75,000 adults receive welfare assistance, not counting their dependent children. Instituting an across-the-board drug testing policy would undoubtedly add millions to the state’s barely balanced budget. Those funds would be better spent elsewhere.

One more significant problem is the question of what happens when somebody gets caught? Welfare is the benefit for financial last resort, meaning people cannot properly care for themselves or their children without it. So taking the benefits away after a positive drug test likely would lead to an even worse result than drug use.

Cutting off a drug user but providing benefits to children as wards of the state also is flawed for obvious reasons. Child care professionals almost universally agree that institutionalizing children and removing them from their comfort zone leads to more developmental problems than a less-than-ideal home life in most cases.

Add it up: Drug testing welfare recipients isn’t totally necessary, costly and could lead to a worse result than the problem it seeks to correct. That’s not sound public policy on any level.

Editorial opinions are a consensus of The Daily News editorial board.

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