Gov. Perry in Houston to talk welfare and unemployment drug testing

November 13, 2012 10:00:00 PM PST
Texas Governor Rick Perry was in town Wednesday to talk about why he supports reforms for welfare and unemployment -- and that includes requiring drug testing for recipients.

People are really doing battle over this bill and it hasn't even gone before the legislature because it's not in session yet.

"Most Texans think that drug use is bad," said Governor Rick Perry.

The governor announced his support for a bill by State Senator Jane Nelson that would require Texans on welfare and unemployment to be tested for drugs, with no exceptions. He said the bill will pass during the upcoming 83rd legislative session and that it's what Texans want.

"This will prevent tax dollars from being used, going into the pockets of drug abusers or drug users," said Gov. Perry.

We asked Houstonians what they think and found strong feelings both for and against the testing policy.

"Yeah I wouldn't mind. There's gonna be some people that need welfare, then there's gonna be some people, people who always abuse certain privileges," said Weldon Renfro.

"I worry more about the children. What will happen to the children of the people that actually do engage in using drugs? How are they going to get any benefits?" said Lucy Ayala

In Florida, a similar bill that was blocked by a judge after four months actually ended up costing the state money. For every 4,086 recipients tested for drugs, just 108 failed. And the national survey on drug use and health found that compared to 2.6 percent of welfare recipients, drug use by Florida's general population was three times higher at 7.8 percent.

So is there evidence of epidemic drug use by Texans on welfare or on unemployment? The governor didn't have those numbers, but said that isn't relevant.

"I don't think it matters. That's not the issue," said Gov. Perry. "We know that there are individuals who could be at work today. We know we got a drug problem in this country."

Terri Burke with the ACLU of Texas said, "We've already got a problem and now we're gonna take money away from these vulnerable children?"

The governor disagrees.

"What I think is punishing them is having a parent who is on drugs," said Gov. Perry.

He says the bill will save money by keeping drug users off of state assistance.