Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is jumping back into the center of controversy again, this time with a proposal to drug test people receiving Medicaid benefits.
He said he is doing it because Wisconsin has jobs to fill.
“Many of them – construction, transportation and definitely healthcare – require people to pass a drug test,” Walker said.
“I think most of us believe that public assistance should be more like a trampoline than like a hammock,” Walker said. “Really, for those who are able to work we should enable them to get back in the work force.”
“Drugs can come very cheap and when you're poor and you're going through a lot of things in life,” she said, “sadly we want to kinda drown that feeling, we want to numb it.”
“Republicans have been on this trajectory of demonizing poor people,” said Wisconsin state Rep. Lisa Subeck, a Democrat. “And that's all this does and it does it for a lot of money.”
John Peacock, who is with the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, said the proposal would make villains out of drug addicts.
“We think it's a big step backwards for Wisconsin because it approaches drug addiction as a moral failing rather than as a disease,” Peacock said.
“We treat it like a health issue,” Walker said. “We say we know that that person, if given the help they need to get back up on their feet again, to get healthy again, to get clean in their addiction, we know they can work.”
The proposal, a component of the state budget, has passed a committee but needs to be approved by the state legislature. A spokesman said Walker has a comfortable margin with votes.
Wisconsin would be the first state in the nation to require Medicaid recipients to undergo drug testing. If successful, other states are expected to follow suit – though it will likely be challenged in court.