Sometimes I have to wonder what Florida Gov. Rick Scott is smoking. Maybe it's time we started drug-testing politicians!
TALLAHASSEE -- Since the state began testing welfare applicants for drugs in July, about 2 percent have tested positive, preliminary data shows.
Ninety-six percent proved to be drug free -- leaving the state on the hook to reimburse the cost of their tests.
The initiative may save the state a few dollars anyway, bearing out one of Gov. Rick Scott's arguments for implementing it. But the low test fail-rate undercuts another of his arguments: that people on welfare are more likely to use drugs.
At Scott's urging, the Legislature implemented the new requirement earlier this year that applicants for temporary cash assistance pass a drug test before collecting any benefits.
The law, which took effect July 1, requires applicants to pay for their own drug tests. Those who test drug-free are reimbursed by the state, and those who fail cannot receive benefits for a year.
[...] Cost of the tests averages about $30. Assuming that 1,000 to 1,500 applicants take the test every month, the state will owe about $28,800-$43,200 monthly in reimbursements to those who test drug-free.
That compares with roughly $32,200-$48,200 the state may save on one month's worth of rejected applicants.
The savings assume that 20 to 30 people -- 2 percent of 1,000 to 1,500 tested -- fail the drug test every month. On average, a welfare recipient costs the state $134 in monthly benefits, which the rejected applicants won't get, saving the state $2,680-$3,350 per month.
But since one failed test disqualifies an applicant for a full year's worth of benefits, the state could save $32,200-$48,200 annually on the applicants rejected in a single month.
Net savings to the state -- $3,400 to $8,200 annually on one month's worth of rejected applicants. Over 12 months, the money saved on all rejected applicants would add up to $40,800-$98,400 for the cash assistance program that state analysts have predicted will cost $178 million this fiscal year.
Actual savings will vary, however, since not all of the applicants denied benefits might have actually collected them for the full year. Under certain circumstances, applicants who failed their drug test can reapply for benefits after six months.
[...] More than once, Scott has said publicly that people on welfare use drugs at a higher rate than the general population. The 2 percent test fail rate seen by DCF, however, does not bear that out.