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You will be tested for the measly $140.00 from the Great? State of Mississippi!

Republican Phil Bryant is starting his third year as Mississippi governor, and he says he wants to make public safety the top focus of the 2014 legislative session, which begins at noon Tuesday. He wants to train more state troopers and create “strike force” groups to help local law enforcement officers in areas where mayors or county supervisors say there are problems with gangs, drugs or violent crime.

Bryant also said he wants to require drug testing for recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, a government program that provides money to low-income families with children up to age 18. Similar proposals have gained little traction in recent years.

Here are excerpts from the interview, which took place in the governor’s Capitol office:

AP: You mentioned drug testing for TANF recipients. Is there some reason to believe people on the program are disproportionately troubled by drug problems, compared with the rest of the population?

Bryant: “I don’t have evidence to indicate that that population would be more likely. What I do have is a great concern that single mothers are not abusing drugs or other substances and try to maintain a family.”

AP: If the public policy concern is to make sure children are being raised in homes where people aren’t addicted to drugs, why not test all parents?

Bryant: “I’m not responsible for an individual or his actions unless he violates the law and then we will certainly put into effect the responsibility that we have to enforce the law for substance abuse. But when someone is taking tax dollars I think we have the right to determine whether or not that individual is abusing a substance and then how we go about treating them.”

AP: Why not test corporate leaders whose companies get state tax money? Or why not test public employees, like yourself?

Bryant: “If I was receiving any federal or state benefits to help raise my family, I’d be glad to take a drug test. I think that would be something that would be acceptable to me if I was receiving tax benefits. I work hard for my money. The federal government or the state government has a right, I think, to merely ask people who are receiving benefits through TANF to submit to a drug test so that we can identify if you’re abusing a substance and then how we go about treating you for that.”

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