USA TODAY OPINION


Opposing view:
No drug test, no welfare


By Kimberly Yee


3/18/2012

States have an obligation to hold those on public assistance accountable for their actions. Receiving a public benefit is a privilege, not a right. The debate on drug testing welfare recipients is simply about the responsible use of tax dollars.

Most Americans, even my fellow fiscal conservatives, see the legitimate need for benefit programs for those who are struggling and need to get back on their feet. However, it is fiscally irresponsible for public monies to subsidize the use of illegal drugs. Taxpayers should not be in the business of funding the lifestyles of those who are addicted to drugs, thereby condoning illegal behavior.

Arizona established a program in 2009 to test welfare recipients for drug abuse when there's a reasonable suspicion of drug use. This program confronts addicts with their drug abuse problems so they may quickly receive treatment and become productive members of society again.

It is not uncommon for individuals employed in the private sector to be tested for drug use when applying for a job. For business owners, this practice holds employees accountable for their actions, and if they do not pass the drug test, there is a very simple consequence: no job.

Similarly, if states like Arizona choose to drug test those who are on welfare and drug use is found, the consequence should be the same: no further taxpayer assistance.

Opponents of drug testing welfare recipients believe that denying benefits to drug users unjustly punishes families and takes money away from children. In fact, drug users deny their own children a healthy lifestyle and positive example.

By looking away when drug use is determined, we're condoning this illegal behavior and missing an opportunity to turn the drug abuser's situation around. Instead, we should get drug abusers back on track and prepare them to get and keep jobs when their temporary assistance ends.

Taxpayers deserve to know that their hard-earned dollars are wisely used and not funding a drug user's next hit.

State Rep. Kimberly Yee, a Republican, serves on the Health and Human Services Committee in the Arizona House.