Walker Take Note: Arizona Tested 87,000 Welfare Recipients; Found One User
Scott Walker wants to drug test welfare recipients. If he took the time to study results elsewhere, he’d learn he’s wasting taxpayers’ money.
“We don’t want people who are abusing drugs to be on welfare,” GOP state Rep. John Kavanagh told the Arizona Republic in 2009, “because that means that the taxpayers are subsidizing and facilitating illegal drug use.”
But an examination of Arizona’s experiment reveals a flawed policy that has failed to accomplish its stated goal of saving the state money, and has instead done little more than further stigmatize poverty and marginalize the poor.
The results are thin: According to USA Today, more than 87,000 welfare recipients went through Arizona’s program in the three years after it began. The total number of drug cheats caught was exactly one — a single positive result, which saved the state precisely $560.
Checking in again in March, the Arizona Sonora News Service cited state Department of Economic Security figures which found that over the course of more than five years, “42 people have been asked to take a follow-up drug test and 19 actually took the test, 16 of whom passed. The other 23 were stripped of their benefits for failing to take the drug test.”
That adds up to a grand total of three failed tests from 2009-2014. The net savings reaped from withholding benefits for those who either tested positive or failed to complete a drug test was around $3,500, once the $500 cost of testing the 19 is factored in, according to one state agency report. The haul is especially unimpressive when you consider the $1.7 million in savings state officials promised when they unveiled the program.
Lesson learned? Not quite.
Since Arizona enacted its drug testing programs, at least six more states have implemented similar measures. In 2012, Utah began its own, which, according to the Daily Beast, nabbed 12 of 466 people tested at a cost to the state of $25,000.