JUST SAY NO

Walker Pushing Drug War Testing Scheme

The Wisconsin governor wants to test all welfare recipients for drugs, and doesn’t care that the courts say that’s unconstitutional.

01.30.15 10:30 PM ET

According to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, what American employers are really looking for these days is “someone who can pass a drug test.”

Walker made that remark in a question-and-answer session in Washington, D.C., Friday following his remarks at the American Action Forum’s inaugural Fred Malek lecture series, which are named after the GOP powerbroker who served as Richard Nixon’s “Jew counter”). The Wisconsin governor is expected to formally unveil the drug testing proposal in his budget next week.

The initative would require drug testing for recipients of government benefits like food stamps and Medicaid. Walker says his plan is justified because there are many open jobs waiting for people who can pass drug tests and know “how to show up [for work] everyday five days a week.”

Walker first touted the idea while running for re-election last year, and pledged to “require a drug test for those requesting unemployment and able-bodied, working age adults requesting Food Stamps from the state.” But, sadly for Walker, the plan is almost certainly unconstitutional.

Federal courts have found that laws that require all recipients of welfare benefits to be drug tested violate the 4th Amendment as an unconstitutional search and seizure. However, states have recently passed laws that only require drug tests for those on government assistance for whom there is “a reasonable suspicion” of illegal drug use. This is considered far more likely to pass constitutional muster than blanket drug testing of everyone who applies for public assistance.

Walker did seem aware of these obstacles at the event, describing the pushback from the courts as “a classic example where the federal government pushes back and says you can’t do that.”

But even if Walker does manage to require drug testing for welfare recipients, the plan would likely be quite expensive for taxpayers. Before it was overturned in federal court, Florida’s mandatory drug test law ended up costing the state more money than it saved.

In the meantime, it does make for good political rhetoric. Very few candidates have won election on a platform giving more money to drug addicts. But Walker’s plan is unlikely to turn into effective or lasting legislation.