State officials are pushing for a quick federal court ruling that will allow Wisconsin to drug test single, able-bodied adults who get food stamps. The plea to the courts came shortly after Gov. Scott Walker signed the 2015-’17 state budget bill that included the drug-testing idea.
Walker is running for president and often mentions his drug testing provisions in stops across America. Those who test positive would need to get help, or they eventually would lose food stamp eligibility.
Wisconsin already is phasing in tough requirements that food stamp recipients actively get training and seek jobs. By mid-2017, fiscal experts estimated 114,000 single able-bodied citizens will be fully covered by those new training and job search requirements.
Earlier this year, some of the state’s religious leaders unsuccessfully urged the Republican-controlled Legislature to reject Walker’s drug testing ideas. They noted there already are long waiting lists for treatment for drug addiction. Those waiting lists mean citizens may be punished, rather than helped, by the drug testing.
The religious leaders suggested that 8.5 percent of the Wisconsin citizenry faces drug problems. They added that treatment is not a one-stop approach.
No one disputes that there are long waiting lists to help those with drug addiction. The plea for a quick federal ruling seems aimed at helping Walker’s presidential campaign. If the federal court approves drug testing, Walker can claim he knows how to deal with social problems. But if the drug testing is rejected, Walker can denounce the federal government by saying the ruling shows there is a need for new ideas and new leadership. Walker could promise to spread drug testing as a requirement for food stamps, which are funded by the federal government, to all 50 states.
-Matt Pommer is the dean of Capitol correspondents in Madison. His column is published with permission from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.