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Perry, Dewhurst advocate drug tests for welfare

Associated Press Modified: November 14, 2012 at 12:22 am •  Published: November 13, 2012

In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott championed a law that required welfare applicants to pay for and pass a drug test from July through October last year, when a federal judge temporarily halted it. Roughly 4,000 adults did not have drugs in their system and 108 tested positive — about 2.5 percent — though nearly 2,500 people refused to take the drug test for reasons that weren't always clear.

Though Perry and Dewhurst didn't suggest welfare- and unemployment-benefit applicants in Texas should pay for their own testing, they were asked if Florida's example means drug-testing is an efficient way to spend state funds.

"Florida had their program and other states had their programs," Perry responded. "I will suggest to you Texas will have an efficient program."

Bill Hammond, head of the influential Texas Association of Business, noted that state employers pay 100 percent of the costs of unemployment benefits but that only about 80 percent of businesses require drug-testing as a prerequisite for employment.

Perry said "it is simply not the role of employers who fund these benefits to carry workers who keep themselves in an unemployable condition." He added that failing to test the unemployed for drugs helps ensure they'll never get a job.

"Extending taxpayer funded benefits while ignoring a behavior that would make it virtually impossible for someone to enter the workforce or finish school sends them down the road to a much bleaker future," he said.

Dewhurst said scores of Texas companies who are looking to hire qualified workers have told him they've been unable to because applicants often fail drug tests. He also seized on proposed rules that would bar retailers from accepting welfare benefits when selling alcohol and tobacco.

"Every dollar wasted on these items is a dollar taken away from vital, very helpful other programs and our public education system," he said.