(WMC-TV) - A Tennessee lawmaker wants taxpayers to foot the bill for a controversial proposal to test all welfare recipients in the state for drugs.
The Tennessee House of Representatives has received the bill and now must set a date to vote on it. Earlier this week, a proposal to drug test welfare recipients easily passed the state senate.
"This is a public safety issue," said Sen. Stacey Campfield, a Knoxville Republican. "We are trying to help people who are on drugs."
Campfield sponsored the senate bill which would require every applicant for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to take a quiz.
If the results raise suspicion, the applicant would then be required to take a drug test. If they fail the drug test, the applicant would still get assistance, but would be required to take another test 6 months later.
If they fail the second test, their assistance would be suspended for 6 months.
However, Memphis Democrat Beverly Marrero believes the program would end up costing taxpayers a fortune.
TANF benefits are about $50 per week or $200 per month.
The estimated cost of the program in fiscal year 2012-2013 is $244,600.
The estimated savings per year is $1,280,040.
And Campfield says the drug tests won't be forced on anyone.
"Of course it's optional," he said. "If a person doesn't want to take a drug test, they don't have to apply for the assistance."
A failed drug test would not be used for criminal prosecution; they would only be used to deny state welfare assistance.
If the bill becomes law, the general assembly anticipates legal challenges which could cost the state more than $100,000.