February 11, 2014

Attorney General Kane: Budget cuts to public safety will weaken Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG - Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane today testified before the Senate and House Appropriations Committees that her office's allocation in Gov. Corbett's 2014-'15 state budget proposal undermines the overarching mission of state government, which is to protect the public.

"Building a stronger Pennsylvania is necessary, but making the Commonwealth safer is more urgent," Attorney General Kane said. "We can't educate children who drop out of school to sell drugs for gang members. Businesses can't grow in communities ravaged by crime, and health-care costs can't be contained without addressing the drug epidemic." 
 
During separate hearings today, Attorney General Kane asked members of both committees to support a 13.9 percent increase for the Office of Attorney General ? a request that is equally conscious of the Commonwealth's fiscal dilemma and public safety needs ? so that the office can continue to function at existing levels without a reduction in its workforce.

Gov. Corbett's proposal would cut the Office of Attorney General's funding by approximately eight percent, and does not account for the very salary increases he agreed to through collective bargaining.

The proposal does not include approximately $7 million requested to help dismantle drug trafficking organizations by bolstering statewide efforts, and would result in furloughs across the agency, particularly in Drug Law Enforcement, punching a hole in the Office of Attorney General's ability to protect communities from drug trafficking and drug-related violence.

"We need these resources to arrest and prosecute more drug dealers working in all levels of drug trafficking organizations," Attorney General Kane said. "As it stands this budget would hinder our operations and I cannot protect the public to the degree they deserve without the funding I am requesting today."

She noted that in 2005 when Corbett was attorney general, he had a complement of 205 drug law enforcement employees. However, Gov. Corbett's proposal would result in furloughs, reducing the current complement further to only 146 employees.

"The governor's proposed reduction comes despite the explosion of heroin and prescription drug abuse across the state and as Western Pennsylvania is reeling from 22 overdose deaths in a one-week period last month," Attorney General Kane said.

Attorney General Kane said a multi-pronged approach is needed to address drug abuse, including treatment for those Pennsylvanians in the throes of addiction, noting that the number of drug overdose deaths in Pennsylvania - a major portion of which are from prescription drugs - increased by 89 percent since 1999. Additionally, Pennsylvania hospital admissions for opioids and synthetics increased 100 percent between 2004 and 2011.

She also is requesting additional funding to develop programs for schools, parents and children to educate youth about the dangers of prescription drug and heroin abuse.

Attorney General Kane recently completed a fact-finding mission to the U.S.-Mexico border to consult with federal and state authorities and share intelligence about international drug trafficking organizations. 
 
She vowed to work with legislative leaders in all four caucuses to garner support for fighting heroin trafficking and educating citizens about the dangers of prescription drug use.

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