BUDGET (copy)

Gov. Tony Evers speaks during the biennial budget action at the state Capitol in Madison.

Wisconsin is still on track to implement the drug screening requirements for FoodShare recipients that were approved under former Gov. Scott Walker. 

But another provision — work requirements for adults with children that receive FoodShare — is effectively on hold after Gov. Tony Evers targeted both measures in his partial vetoes of the state's 2019-21 budget last week.

In his signing of the budget last Wednesday, Evers used his expansive line-item veto authority to reduce funding for implementing and administering work requirements for FoodShare recipients with children, along with drug testing and treatment procedures. 

The actions mean the state doesn't have enough funding to put in place the work requirements for recipients with children because the state will be unable to pay for the participant reimbursements. 

Instead, the Department of Health Services said those FoodShare recipients with children would be placed on a waitlist and be exempted from sanctions as allowed under state and federal law, as Evers directed in his veto message.

Federal law dictates that SNAP work registrants are exempt from sanctions unless there's enough funding to cover costs needed for participation in employment and training, per DHS. That includes dependent care expenses.

Evers also called on the Legislature to pursue separate legislation on the topic if it "believes this is a priority." Meanwhile, the work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents would remain in place. 

But for the drug screening, testing and treatment requirements, DHS spokeswoman Elizabeth Goodsitt said the agency has "adequate funding in the budget" to put in place those provisions. 

"We are on track to implement drug screening and subsequent treatment," she wrote in an email, though she wouldn't say what the agency's timeline is for doing so. 

Despite Evers' vetoes, which removed general purpose revenue targeting both FoodShare-related measures, the state budget provides $63.9 million in state and federal funds over the next two years through the cost-to-continue funding to pay for participation for adults without dependents, an Evers spokeswoman said.

Under the law, the agency is required to implement the screening, testing and treatment provisions by Oct. 1, 2019, for able-bodied adults without children. Evers sought to remove those requirements in his budget request, language that was rejected by the Legislature's budget committee. 

The requirements mean adults without children who participate in the FoodShare program would need to take a controlled substance abuse screening questionnaire. If those answers indicate possible drug use, the individual would then take a drug test, and if they test positive, would likely be directed to a treatment program.

Evers reiterated his opposition to the provisions in his partial veto message, writing: "I object to subjecting individuals receiving food assistance in the FoodShare program to drug screening as the costs of this type of program outweigh the benefits."

He added that "there is no reason to treat recipients of this type of state aid differently than Wisconsinites who use any other type of state program or assistance." 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos slammed the FoodShare-related partial vetoes for letting people "cheat the system by not following the welfare reforms" the Legislature passed.

"Because of his partial vetoes, he’s starving programs that incentivize work, undermining their implementation and skirting the law," the Rochester Republican said. "We know people support drug testing and work requirements for welfare recipients and this budget ignores that fact."

Walker’s 2015-17 budget included a drug testing requirement for childless adults receiving food stamps. But the measure languished as it awaited federal approval to take effect. Later, the state approved a rule change to implement the screening requirements after DHS laid the groundwork in fall 2017

Because the requirements haven't yet been implemented, there's no data on the number of people who would be affected by the provisions. Still, DHS in estimates it generated during the rules process showed around 66,200 individuals would be screened every year, with around 2,000 requiring a drug test. 

Of those, the agency estimated some 220 would test positive and seek treatment. 

Goodsitt, of DHS, said many of the FoodShare members who may indicate they have a substance use disorder have BadgerCare, which would "allow for treatment and other services to be provided."

"For the few who are not on BadgerCare, we have identified sufficient funding that will be used to provide that treatment," she said. 

Separately, state lawmakers also sought to require childless adults to undergo drug screening and testing in order to sign up for Medicaid, though federal officials rejected the request in fall 2018

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