Tag Archives: drug testing

Walker proposes new welfare work requirements

Parents who work fewer than 80 hours a month could face food stamp benefit cuts under a proposal Gov. Scott Walker released this week.

Walker’s proposal also would require adults with children between age 6 and 18 to attend job training and search for work five days a week.

The proposals are part of a package called “Wisconsin Works for Everyone” that Walker released during a series of news conferences across the state.

Under current state law, childless adults in the FoodShare program have to meet the work requirement. They lose all food stamp benefits after three months of non-compliance.

Since the law took effect in April 2015, about 64,000 have lost their benefits.

Under Walker’s new proposal, adults with children who don’t meet the program’s work requirements would face a “partial” reduction in benefits. The governor didn’t say how much the loss in benefits could be.

Walker also is calling for a similar work requirement for people receiving housing vouchers from the federal government.

His proposals could require law changes by Congress and waivers from the Trump administration before taking effect. They would also have to pass the Republican-controlled state Legislature.

Walker has been saying that he hopes to work closely with the Trump administration on a variety of initiatives, including on welfare. Walker is expected to seek a third term in 2018 and will be spelling out his priorities for the next two years in the state budget he releases next month.

The governor provided few details of the welfare reform package this week, saying those would come in the budget.

Both of the new work requirements would begin as pilot programs, but Walker didn’t say where. His outline also doesn’t say how much the new requirements would cost.

Walker said he also reduce child-care assistance from the state once people become employed. Once someone becomes employed and hits 200 percent of the poverty line, the person would start contributing $1 copay for child care for every $3 earned.

Walker also is calling on the Trump administration to clear the way for the state to drug test some welfare recipients.

“We fundamentally believe that public assistance should be a trampoline not a hammock,” Walker said.

Robert Kraig, with the progressive advocacy group Wisconsin Citizen Action, criticized Walker’s proposals, saying they will do nothing to help create more family supporting jobs. Kraig said Walker was penalizing low-income residents for their own poverty.

State Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said Walker wants to create one set of rules for working families and another set of rules for the wealthy and well-connected.

“For too many hardworking Wisconsin families, Gov. Walker’s race-to-the-bottom economy is not working for them. Republican tax breaks that favor millionaires and corporations are shifting a greater burden onto workers,” Shilling said. “Since Gov. Walker took office in 2011, Wisconsin has fallen below the national average for job creation for 20 consecutive quarters. If Gov. Walker really wants to help workers and grow our middle class, Democrats stand ready with a range of proposals to raise family wages, lower student loan debt, invest in infrastructure and expand child care tax credits. It’s time we reward hard work, not the wealthy and well-connected.”

 

Gwen Moore to Scott Walker: Testing food stamp recipients for drugs is unconstitutional

Dear Governor Walker, 

I am writing to express my strong opposition to the ill-advised and illegal proposal enacted in the recently adopted Wisconsin State budget to add a drug test as a requirement for participating in Food Share for some recipients.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is vital in helping to combat hunger in America and is a vital lifeline for over 800,000 in Wisconsin. I remind you that SNAP is a federal program and the federal government covers 100% of the costs of the benefits. Administrative costs are split between states and the federal government. As a result, federal law grants the federal government sole authority to set eligibility requirements for the program.

Yet, the State of Wisconsin seems intent on pursuing this misguided drug testing policy, though federal law on this matter is clear. After passage in the recent State Budget of this unwarranted, wasteful, and unconstitutional provision, you have now filed a frivolous lawsuit—at state taxpayer expense no less. Your lawsuit appears to implicitly acknowledge that the federal government could not legally allow this scheme to move forward and advances a very serious misinterpretation of federal law permitting drug testing for SNAP recipients that not even Republicans in Congress share.

How do I know? In 2013, I managed the time opposing the amendment that sought to permit states to add drug testing as a condition for SNAP eligibility during debate in on the farm bill in the House. That proposal (Sec. 136 of H.R. 3102, Hudson Amendment to H.R. 1947) sought to allow states to conduct drug testing for SNAP recipients beyond current law which allows states to ban or test convicted drug felons. The amendment was adopted in the House and incorporated into both H.R. 1947 and H.R. 3102. As noted by the Republican chairman of the House Agriculture Committee during debate on H.R. 3102, “Language allowing the States to very clearly use drug testing as a part of their SNAP application process was adopted by a majority of the votes on this floor.” It would be inconceivable that House Republicans would have pursued this legislation if your interpretation of federal law was, in fact, correct.

If I have not been clear, just over a year and a half ago, House Republicans recognized that no federal law allows drug testing of SNAP recipients by states beyond those with drug convictions. Congress then said NO to giving states that power as the House passed provisions were dropped from the final Farm Bill.

Federal law related to SNAP remains crystal clear on another item: States cannot add conditions of eligibility to SNAP, outside those required by federal law. Specifically, Section 5(b) of the Food and Nutrition Act (7 U.S.C. §2014(b)) states that “No plan of operation submitted by a State agency shall be approved unless the standards of eligibility meet those established by the Secretary, and no State agency shall impose any other standards of eligibility as a condition for participating in the program.” I applaud the work of the USDA to make sure that Wisconsin and other states are not allowed to add wasteful, unnecessary, and, in this case, unconstitutional, requirements to impose more hardships and obstacles to those who are food insecure in our communities. While you may be frustrated by this interpretation, the law remains the law. 

I won’t get into the very fallacious arguments behind proposals such as this that are based on the unfounded and unwarranted presumption most of the people who use food stamps also use drugs other than to express that I have seen neither your office nor proponents in the State Legislature provide one iota of scientific evidence supporting  that contention. I do know that Florida tried to drug test applicants for TANF benefits. Besides being struck down as unconstitutional by a federal court, it was wasteful as well given that Florida spent more money reimbursing individuals for drug tests than the state saved on screening out an extremely small population (108 of 4,086 TANF applicants). 

I suggest instead of wasting Wisconsin taxpayer dollars on this frivolous lawsuit, the money could be better spent trying to figure out how to help restore food assistance to the seniors in Wisconsin who saw they Food Share payments significantly cut by the 2014 farm bill. This includes seniors like 65 year old Judy Beals of Belleville, a disabled senior who relies on Social Security, who saw her benefit drop from $120 to $16. Governors in other states have stepped up to protect vulnerable citizens from losing access to SNAP benefits. Wisconsin can join them if you so choose. 

Again, I urge you to abandon your attempts to impose a wasteful, unconstitutional, unnecessary, and stigmatizing provision whose only goal is to shame poor people.  

Sincerely,

Gwen Moore

Republicans and Dems united in opposition to Walker’s budget

Republicans and Democrats are both lined up in opposition to many of the key items in Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s $68-billion budget proposal. 

Bipartisan resistance is growing to Walker’s plans to borrow $1.3 billion to pay for road construction and infrastructure projects, cut $300 million from the University of Wisconsin System, and pay for an expansion of the private school voucher program by taking money from public schools while holding their funding flat.

Walker’s budget also requires drug testing for public benefit recipients, which has proven costly in some states and ruled unconstitutional in others. The budget eliminates 400 state government positions, slashes funds for public broadcasting and weakens environmental oversight.

Walker says his plan offers bold ideas to reshape government, which is the emerging theme of his fledgling presidential campaign. Throughout the first month of his second term, Walker has been largely missing in Madison as he travels the country to court big-bucks conservative donors, meet with right-wing national leaders and build his name recognition among tea party supporters.

In Wisconsin, the Legislature’s GOP leadership is balking about the budget Walker is asking them to approve. They’ve been particularly outspoken about increasing borrowing by 30 percent to pay for highway projects, the majority of which are unnecessary, according to traffic studies.

“The biggest heartburn I have in regards to the proposed budget is the amount of bonding,” said budget committee member Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst. “I know there’s a number of my colleagues who are quite concerned about that.”

Walker’s Department of Transportation had recommended $750 million in higher taxes and fees, including on gasoline and vehicle registrations, to pay for roads. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and other corporate-right groups had supported a modest gas tax increase.

But deferring, perhaps, to the anti-tax tea party voters who dominate Republican primaries, Walker nixed all tax or fee increases in favor of issuing bonds that won’t come due until he’s long gone. That drew criticism more than 400 local governments, road builders and labor unions.

Republicans also are joining Democrats in questioning Walker’s $300 million cut to UW, which amounts to 13 percent of the system’s budget. UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said the cut would create a $91-million budget hole at the system’s flagship school. Vos has said he’s worried the cut will make it more difficult for students to graduate in four years.

Along with his budget cut, Walker has proposed to give the system’s 26 campuses more autonomy and freedom from state laws and oversight, something university officials have lobbied for years to get. Although university officials have better received that part of the plan, many observers fear that it would embolden tuition hikes that would make college in the state less affordable than it already is.

UW-Madison faculty and staff planned to stage a rally and march on Feb. 14 to protest Walker’s proposed cuts to the UW System. The event, “Stop the Cuts — Save UW,” was set to begin at noon on the Library Mall. The Overpass Light Brigade planned a separate action at 6 p.m., when the group will spell out protest messages in lights.

While cutting UW funding, Walker’s budget would hold funding for public schools flat, while removing a 1,000-student cap on the private-school voucher program. Going forward, the program would be available to students transferring in from public schools at any point, and also private school students entering kindergarten, the first grade or ninth grade. Money to pay for it would come from state aid sent to the schools losing the student.

No increase in funding for schools amounts to a cut because they won’t be able to keep up with growing expenses, said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers. And, he added, taking money away from schools to pay for voucher students only compounds the problem, Evers said.

Democrats have criticized Walker and Republicans for using a previous surplus to pay for nearly $2 billion in tax cuts primarily benefiting corporations and the very wealthy over the past four years. Those tax cuts helped fuel the current budget gap.

With the budget now introduced, the debate now shifts to the Legislature, where lawmakers will spend the next four months working over Walker’s proposal before voting on it likely sometime in June.

Meanwhile, Walker will spend the coming months on the presidential campaign trail.

15 groups challenge Walker’s plan to require drug tests for public aid

A coalition of 15 groups is challenging Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to require applicants for and recipients of public assistance and unemployment insurance to pass drug tests.

The organizations joined in a letter to the Republican governor and legislators, writing in advance of Walker’s budget address. They coalition includes advocates for low-income Wisconsinites, members of Wisconsin’s faith community, advocates for Wisconsin women, representatives of organized labor and national organizations.

The letter raises numerous questions about the governor’s proposal.

David R. Riemer, a senior fellow at the Community Advocates Public Policy Institute, said in a news release, “Gov. Walker’s proposal raises a series of important questions for policymakers to address before going full steam into removing Wisconsinites from public assistance and unemployment insurance for not passing drug tests. These questions concern the constitutionality of the plan, its costs, the many new processes that will have to be implemented, and evidence about whether the plan would improve public health and is cost effective.”

He added, “Even if all of these questions are answered, drug testing is hardly a wise policy solution for greatly increasing employment and reducing poverty in Wisconsin.”

The letter suggests that policymakers look to evidence-based solutions that could dramatically reduce poverty and help Wisconsinites get back to work, including:

• Expanding the state’s transitional jobs program.

• Restoring and expanding the state earned income tax credit and Homestead Credit.

• Raising the state’s minimum wage.

• Expanding BadgerCare to cover all adults with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.  

The groups include: Community Advocates Public Policy Institute, Wisconsin Council of Churches, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP), Wisconsin Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin, Milwaukee Transitional Jobs Collaborative, Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, Justice Initiatives Institute, Project RETURN, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Jobs Now, AFSCME Council 40, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and National Employment Law Project (NELP).

On the Web …

Read the letter.

NOW delivers specimen cups to Wisconsin lawmakers, protests Walker’s drug-testing plan

Members of the Wisconsin chapter of the National Organization for Women announced plans on Jan. 12 to give state lawmakers specimen sample cups to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to drug test recipients of public assistance.

Wisconsin NOW, in a news statement, repeated its opposition to the measure, which has already been implemented in some states, including Florida.

The cups were to be delivered along with a letter explaining NOW’s opposition.

The group, in its statement, said no one should be subjected to the drug tests, which one federal appeals court has found to be a violation of the constitutional right to privacy.

“We’re not interested in adopting policies that have already failed in other states,” said chapter president Dayna Long. “Especially policies that are designed to vilify Wisconsin’s most vulnerable citizens. If legislators would like to see fewer people receiving public assistance, they should focus their efforts on creating jobs that will pay Wisconsin workers a living wage instead.” 

GOP lawmaker who wanted mandatory drug tests for welfare recipients arrested for DUI

Republican Kip Smith, a state representative from Georgia who sponsored a bill that would have submitted welfare recipients to random drug testing, was arrested in Atlanta the night of Jan. 13 for driving under the influence of alcohol.

The right-wing political leader was pulled over in the city’s Buckhead neighborhood after running a red light on his way home from a restaurant, reported Atlanta’s Channel 2 Action News.

According to the report, the arresting officer said he could smell the odor of alcohol emanating from Smith’s car when he walked over to ask to see his license. Smith first refused to take a breathalyzer test, but once it was explained to him that he would be arrested, he started the sobriety test, which he had trouble completing, according to the complaint filed against him.

Smith first blew a .091, and later a .100 and a .099, all above the legal limit of .08. He also failed a “walk-and-turn” test and a “one-leg-stand” field sobriety test.

The controversial bill that Smith sponsored would have required all welfare recipients to submit to random, annual drug tests. Those who failed the tests would have been cut off from public assistance.

Democratic state Rep. Scott Holcomb has now submitted legislation that would instead require all state lawmakers to undergo random drug testing.