Rick Scott might have just done the impossible. With his plan to randomly drug test all Florida state employees, the Republican governor of the Sunshine State just made a case for the Tea Party to agree with the ACLU.
The American Civil Liberties Union is raging at Scott for what they term an illegal "search" that forces state employees to give up their fifth amendment right not to incriminate themselves. Face it. Scott HAD to see that coming. There's nothing the ACLU likes more than a constitutional argument against a Republican governor.
But then you've got the Tea Party, the folks who got him elected. They're also the folks who waltzed into power across the nation in November on a pledge to cut spending by something like 40 percent. Yeah, those guys should be mighty P-O'd at Mr. Scott right now.
Because while his plan might call for "accountability" (don't you just love those political buzzwords?) for the state's employees, here's the other thing it will do: cost taxpayers money. Incredible, I know. But that's what new government initiatives (coming from a guy whose party calls for "less government intervention" by the way) do. Cost mucho amounts of money.
Estimates vary, but here's some math for you: There are about 100,000 Florida state employees. An average drug test costs $35. Done once a year, and you're looking at $3.5 million. But Scott wants to go even further than that. His proposal suggests everyone in the state's employ pee in a cup "at least quarterly." Do some more math there, and you're looking at $14 million.
FOURTEEN MILLION DOLLARS. In a state where the expected budget shortfall has grown to about $3 billion for the 2010-11 fiscal year. Ouch. Doesn't sound like much of a spending CUT does it?
And as a marker of just how ill-advised this spending would be -- another marker of something the Tea Party ain't happy with, folks! -- Scott's drug tests are not even fail-safe. Most websites on "how to pass your drug test" (quick, Florida employees, it's not too late to bookmark these!) will tell you that the big stuff like LSD or cocaine can move out of your system in a day to two. The only thing that really seems to stick around for a lengthy period of time is marijuana. So to catch state employees actually doing anything naughty on taxpayer time is not likely. So much for accountability, huh?
Soooo, let's sum up. Fourteen million dollars. Just to find out if someone "might" have lit up a doobie in the last month. The ACLU is balancing on the "might." But if the Tea Party wants any credibility in Florida, it better be homing in on that $14 million pronto.
What do you think? Will the two ever meet in the middle?
Image via Andres Rueda/Flickr