A state lawmaker wants to increase the penalties for W-2 applicants that fail a drug test. Under current law, testing is already required for anyone applying for the state’s Welfare to Work program who has a felony drug conviction. If they fail, their benefits can be reduced by up to 15-percent.

State Representative Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) worries that penalty is not high enough to discourage drug use though. He’s sponsoring a bill that would increase the deduction range to between 25 and 50-percent. The reduction would last for up to a year.

Knodl says the penalty is intended to discourage drug use and to reassure the public that those using W-2 are actually trying to improve their situation, rather than taking advantage of a taxpayer-funded program. He says people expect those using assistance programs to be working towards a positive outcome.

Knodl says the bill does provide some exemptions for W-2 participants who have dependent children, with the balance of the deducted money directed towards them instead.

The impact of the change would be very limited in the greater scope of the W-2 program. Knodl says it would only have reduced benefits for about 27 W-2 applicants in the past year.

The bill received a hearing at the state Capitol Wednesday and is awaiting action by a legislative committee.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:15)

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