MADISON (AP/WITI) — If you're being helped by state programs like FoodShare or even Medicaid, you'd better be drug free. That's the message from Governor Scott Walker. Walker is following through on his campaign promise to require drug testing for public aid recipients in Wisconsin and limiting how long they can receive benefits.
The potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate announced on Thursday, January 22nd more details about those plans that he first proposed during last year's gubernatorial campaign. The drug-testing requirements and benefits restrictions will be included in his two-year budget proposal being released on February 3rd.
Walker says this will be a big part of his upcoming budget proposal -- but it's already being met with controversy. Similar measures throughout the country have been met with mixed results.
"We need people who are drug free," said Walker.
In De Pere on Thursday, Walker said he'll propose a plan to the Republican-controlled Legislature that requires drug testing for people applying for or accepting benefits through a wide variety of government programs.
"Whether it's unemployment training, we're going to seek a waiver for food stamps, seek a waiver for Medicaid. We're going to make changes in terms of W2 -- in each of these areas of public assistance. This is about getting people ready for work," said Walker.
Walker says the goal is to help fill nearly 67,000 job openings in the state with qualified workers who are less dependent on the government, and not abusing the system.
"You can't just say that it will create jobs and expect people to go with it," said Representative Mandela Barnes (D-Milwaukee) said.
Barnes says the idea sends the wrong message.
"It aids the stigma that people who are in need, who are poor, are drug users. Which is not the case," Rep. Barnes said.
Barnes believes this measure will be challenged. Eleven states currently require drug-testing of welfare recipients -- but last month, a Florida court ruled a similar law unconstitutional.
"The people who are most in need, the majority of them want to better their lives. They understand bettering their lives doesn't include abusing drugs," Rep. Barnes said.
If someone does test positive for drugs, Walker says the state will offer free treatment and free job training. He says getting people off government assistance will, in turn, help pay for that free treatment.
Walker's two-year budget proposal will be released February 3rd.