Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Sunday said his state will not “subsidize” anyone’s drug addiction, defending recent legislation requiring welfare applicants to undergo drug testing.
Scott told CNN anchor T.J. Holmes he isn’t sure how many welfare recipients are using drugs in Florida, but said “I know it’s not right for taxpayer money to be paying for someone’s drug addiction.”
“On top of that, this is going to increase personal responsibility, personal accountability,” he added.
The ACLU has filed suit seeking to block similar legislation requiring state employees to undergo random drug testing. And according to CNN’s report, the ACLU may sue over this legislation as well.
In Scott’s interview Sunday, the governor claimed studies show drug use is “much higher” among welfare recipients than in the population at large. Florida ACLU communications director Derek Newton says that’s “just not true.”
“The research that’s been done shows there’s no significant difference,” he told TPM.
According to the Florida Times-Union, a 2002 study found that 10 percent to 20 percent of welfare recipients have drug and alcohol problems, compared to about 6 percent in the general population. A pilot testing program in Florida was canceled in 2001 after it found no significant difference in drug use among welfare recipients, the Times-Union reports.
When Scott was pressed on the potential cost of the drug-testing program, he didn’t have a firm answer, saying it will depend on how many people pass or fail the test.
“It’s an insignificant cost,” he assured, again reiterating his point that Florida cannot subsidize drug use.
Newton admitted Scott is right in not knowing the total cost. A “wildly optimistic” price tag could be $10 per test, he said.
“What he’s not addressing at all is this bureaucracy that will have to be created,” Newton said. “It’s not as simple as it may sound.”
Scott’s press secretary, Lane Wright, told TPM “the details are still being worked out.”
“We don’t have a dollar cost estimate at this time,” he said. “Because of volume, the state is hoping to negotiate very competitive rates.”
Watch the video below:
Ed Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the ACLU has sued over the welfare legislation. The ACLU may sue, but have not yet. We regret the error.
David Taintor is TPM’s News Editor. He contributes to TPM’s Livewire coverage, among other areas. David is from Chanhassen, Minnesota, where, yes, it gets very cold. Reach him at taintor [at] talkingpointsmemo.com