Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Gov. Perry, Lawmakers Call for Drug Screening for TANF, UI Applicants

*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012  •  Conroe, Texas  •  Speech

As we approach the 83rd Legislative Session, we have to remember a core mission entrusted to us by the people of Texas to wisely, and prudently, safeguard the taxpayer dollar and empower every Texan to reach their potential.

Earlier this year I laid out core principles to keep our state on a fiscally responsible path through the Texas Budget Compact.

As much as ever, every dollar counts, certainly to families gathering around their kitchen tables working to make ends meet after an unexpected expense or two.

That's why it's imperative that we ensure the state spends tax dollars the way they're intended, and not abused.

To that end, I'm calling on the Texas legislature to enact reforms that include authorizing the use of drug screening for TANF and unemployment benefit applicants.

In the case of TANF benefits, this will help prevent tax dollars from going into the pockets of drug abusers and drug dealers alike, and instead ensure this money goes to the people who truly need it.

Every dollar that goes to someone who uses it inappropriately is a dollar that can't go to a Texan who needs it for housing, child care or medicine.

Also, being on drugs makes it much harder to begin the journey to independence, which only assures individuals remain stuck in the terrible cycle of drug abuse, desperation and poverty.

Extending taxpayer-funded benefits while ignoring a behavior that could make it virtually impossible for someone to enter the workforce or finish school, sends them down the road to a much bleaker future.

Bottom line, however, is that illegal drug abuse is not something Texas taxpayers will ever subsidize or tolerate.

Drug screening for TANF is an issue I know Sen. Jane Nelson is taking the lead on. In fact, she filed a bill just yesterday to address this head-on.

And because the purpose of any safety net is to provide temporary support during life's most unexpected challenges, we also need to add a drug-screening component for someone to receive unemployment benefits.

Unemployment benefits are not meant to be a way of life, merely a bridge from one lost job to the beginning of another.

For prospective workers who know they'll need to pass a drug screening in order to work again, part of their responsibility is to be prepared and available for work by remaining drug-free.

It's simply not the role of the employers who fund these benefits to carry workers who keep themselves in an unemployable condition.

Under this proposal, qualified Texans who lose their jobs, through no fault of their own, will continue to receive unemployment benefits and job search assistance from a Texas Workforce Commission that stands ready to help the unemployed, as long as they are drug-free.


Texas Governor Rick Perry  was joined by Sen. Tommy Williams, Rep. Brandon Creighton and other lawmakers to call for reforms to the state's welfare and unemployment benefit programs, including authorizing drug screenings for those applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits at Thigpen Energy in Conroe, TX on November 14th, 2012
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