IL WILL IF YOU WILL: Mitchell says lawmakers and those asking for
public aid should be drug tested..
Mitchell, a Republican lawmaker from Decatur, has failed for the
past several years to get a drug test requirement passed for anyone
applying for public benefits in Illinois. He's trying again this
year, but with a new wrinkle.
"There are certain members of the General Assembly who would accuse
me of hypocrisy, 'You're stereotyping poor people, saying they're on
drugs,'" Mitchell said. "So I fine-tuned the bill, I said 'If Bill
Mitchell is asking someone to be drug tested to get on public
assistance, then when I am filing my re-election papers, I have to
have a drug test too.'"
Bill 5292, would require anyone who runs for the
Illinois House or the Illinois Senate to submit to a drug test. It
would also require anyone applying for Temporary Assistance for
Needy Families, the state/federal cash grant for impoverished
families, to also be drug tested.
CONVERSATION STARTER: Mitchell knows his plan will fail, but wants
to talk about state spending.
Mitchell knows his plan will never become law in Illinois, but he
wants to start the conversation about how much Illinois is spending
on public assistance.
"When I first got to the Legislature in 1999, the single biggest
category of expenditures were K-12 education," Mitchell explained.
"Now, public assistance is number one."
Illinois is spending $13 billion, out of a $36 billion budget, on
Medicaid this year. The state is spending just $6 billion on public
schools. (Illinois is spending $7 billion on pensions.
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The Illinois Department of Human Services, which oversees TANF
spending, said Illinois has nearly doubled what is spends on TANF
over the past five years.
"After all-time low of around 26,000 cases (per month) in 2008,
caseload is now about 50,000 cases (per month)," said DHS
spokeswoman Januari Smith.
The dollar amounts further show the explosion in growth.
In 2009, Illinois spent $85 million on TANF. The state has spent $83
million on TANF in the first six months of this year. The state
spent $177 million total in 2013.
Illinois also spends about $3 billion a year on food stamps.
Mitchell has suggested drug tests for food stamp recipients in the
past as well, but that plan was killed by the Democratic lawmakers
who control Illinois state government.
"The say 'You're trying to stigmatize people, you're trying to
categorize people, you're trying to be mean to them' and certainly
that's not what I want to do," Mitchell said.
Mitchell said he wants to get help for people who are using drugs,
and make sure that Illinois' limited budget for public aid is spent
on those who need it.
Contact Benjamin Yount at
Ben@IllinoisWatchdog.org and find him
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