Speaker of the North Carolina House Thom Tillis called this week for 'dividing and conquering' welfare recipients.
Tillis said Monday in a constituent forum in Madison County, N.C., "What we have to do is find a way to divide and conquer the people who are on assistance. If we have to show respect that woman who has cerebral palsy and had no choice in her condition, that needs help, and we should help."
"And we need those folks to look down at these people who choose to get into a condition that makes them dependent on the government and say at some point you’re on your own. We may end up taking care of those babies, but we’re not going to take care of you," he said.
North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman David Parker sharply criticized Tillis for his comments. "By trying to humiliate our most underprivileged and poverty-stricken citizens, it's clear that Thom Tillis is nothing more than a schoolyard bully -- he should be ashamed of himself," Parker told the Charlotte Observer.
Tillis also said in the forum that the state should consider drug testing recipients of public money and some state employees.
However, he later backed off those comments, telling WRAL-TV he didn't know whether it was a "good idea or a bad idea."
"I think you go look at what the state of Florida and other states have done and see whether or not it's produced a benefit or more cost and make a decision based on that," he said.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott instituted drug testing of welfare recipients on July 1. Recipients have to pay for their own drug tests, which run about $30, but are reimbursed if they pass. Only about two percent have tested positive. The Tampa Tribune calculated that the program could save $40,800-$98,400 each year out of the $178 million program. Arizona and Missouri also require welfare recipients to undergo drug tests.
Tillis told the Observer that his call to "divide and conquer" was a poor choice of words, but he stood by his comments that the state should prioritize who receives public assistance.