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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher July 17, 2015

Measures included in the 2015-17 state budget

"Wisconsin's Comeback Plan," a document Gov. Scott Walker issued during his 2014 campaign for re-election, includes a pledge to require a drug test for those seeking unemployment benefits and for able-bodied, working-age adults requesting food stamps from the state.

In April 2015, we rated this promise In the Works. That was based on his 2015-'17 state budget, submitted two months earlier, which proposed drug testing for recipients of food stamps or unemployment insurance.

After changes in the budget were made by the Legislature, Walker signed the measure into law in July 2015. The drug testing for both food stamps and unemployment remained in the final budget.

And two days after Walker signed the budget, his administration sued the federal government to allow the drug tests for food stamps, a program jointly run by the state and the federal government. Federal officials had been expected to block the move, so the lawsuit was an attempt to pre-empt such an order and get a federal judge to allow the program to go forward.

Under Walker's plan, able-bodied people who don't have dependents would have to be tested for drugs to get FoodShare benefits. Those who failed the tests would get drug treatment, which would be covered by the state if they didn't have another way to pay for it.

Given that drug testing for food stamps and unemployment benefits is now law, we change the rating on this Walker pledge to Promise Kept.

Our Sources

Dave Umhoefer
By Dave Umhoefer April 30, 2015

Proposal included in 2015-'17 budget, awaiting Legislative action

In the 2014 campaign, Gov. Scott Walker promised to require a drug test for those requesting unemployment and for able-bodied, working-age adults requesting food stamps from the state.

Walker's 2015-'17 budget, now awaiting final action in the Legislature, proposed drug testing for food stamp recipients in order for them to get and keep benefits.

Walker says his goal is to make it easier for people to find a job; critics worry the testing and its costs may end up being a burden to welfare applicants and taxpayers.

Under the plan, the state would screen for use of controlled substances without a valid prescription, and, if indicated, test for illegal use of those substances.

The testing program needs permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program, known in Wisconsin as FoodShare, is funded largely by the federal government.

If the federal government approves, the screening would apply to people enrolled in a FoodShare job training program that is required to get food stamps.

FoodShare is just one of the programs that would be part of the new drug testing regimen. Walker's budget also would test applicants for BadgerCare Plus health insurance, unemployment insurance and the W-2 welfare program, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

The Journal Sentinel reported that under Walker's plan, able-bodied adults who fail the drug tests could receive benefits if they enrolled in treatment. If they didn't agree to treatment, they would be barred from receiving benefits.

The budget allocates $500,000 in funding for treatment programs, but the cost of the testing was not specified.

Under Walker's plan for drug testing for unemployment benefits, private employers can submit to the state the results of pre-employment screenings they did on prospective employers.

Those businesses also can tell the state if an applicant declined a drug test.

With that information from private employers, the state would check whether the person tested is receiving benefits, and decide if they should still receive them given the test results, the state Legislative Fiscal Bureau outlined in a report.

We rate this promise In the Works.

Our Sources

Legislative Reference Bureau memos on 2015-17 state budget

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel stories

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