LANSING (WWJ/AP) – A Michigan lawmaker wants to link welfare benefits to a clean drug test.

Republican Rep. Jeff Farrington of Utica introduced a bill this week calling for drug tests to be used to determine eligibility for the state’s Family Independence Program benefits.

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“We know when you go out and try to find a job, most places are requiring you to take a drug test. On the other hand, when we’re providing benefits to those on welfare assistance, we’re not requiring the same. I think it helps motivate people to clean up so that they can have the assistance that they need, but at the same time, take the taxpayers off the hook for paying for something we shouldn’t have to pay for,” said Farrington.

Farrington said he is looking to protect Michigan taxpayers, not punish welfare recipients.

“Having welfare assistance for those truly in need I think is an important part of our society, that’s not what I’m trying to omit, but two things. One, we have to make sure that those funds are still available for those that are truly in need and two, separate the people that aren’t truly in need but are taking advantage of the system because of their own personal problems,” said Farrington.

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Lawmakers in many states have proposed drug tests for recipients of welfare or other government assistance, but Florida this year was the first to enact such a law in more than a decade. It’s been held up by a legal challenge.

“Lets say there are people who for a long time have been getting these benefits, off and on throughout their lives because they can’t hold a job on a steady basis because of their drug problems. So, if we’re going to handle that in another way, I’m open to looking at that but really, you should be done through welfare assistance,” said Farrington.

Farrington believes there is strong support in Lansing for the bill and while he couldn’t cite an exact dollar amount estimate to the problem of drug abusers on welfare, he believes the problem costs Michigan taxpayers “in the millions.”

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