Larsen Urges House Budget Committee to Fully Fund Programs to Combat Methamphetamine</A

Feb 14, 2007

 

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (WA-02) spoke before the House Budget Committee today and urged them to disregard the President’s proposed cuts for Fiscal Year 2008 and fully fund programs to help local law enforcement combat methamphetamine. Below are Congressman Larsen’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Chairman Spratt.  I appreciate the opportunity to speak today in favor of funding for programs that aid in the fight against methamphetamine.

“As you know, methamphetamine is an insidious drug.  It is literally a chemical cocktail, made from hazardous, caustic substances, and it affects every aspect of our communities.  Meth labs pollute the environment, endanger children, and wreak havoc on our neighborhoods.  Meth users steal innocent victims’ identities and will commit any crime in search of their next fix.  The toll on our businesses, families, environment, schools, and communities is extreme.

“What started out as a regional West Coast drug has quickly enveloped the entire country.  All you have to do is look at a map to see the spread of meth use.  In 2005, 49 states reported meth lab incidents.

“The fight against meth has thus far been fought mainly at the state and local level, with assistance from the federal government.  Our states have done a tremendous job reducing the number of homegrown meth labs.

“Thanks to state laws restricting access to meth precursors, and also to the Combat Meth Epidemic Act, the number of domestic meth labs has significantly decreased in recent years, from over 17,000 labs busted in 2003 down to 6,435 in 2006. 

“But while meth labs are decreasing, meth use is still on the rise, fueled by cheap, pure crystal meth from countries like Mexico.  It is time that we bring the same level of urgency and commitment to the federal government’s efforts to combat meth as states and local communities have been bringing to the issue for years.

“Our state and local law enforcement officers, treatment providers and prevention experts have proven effective in beating back meth.  But they can’t do it alone.  There are many successful federal programs that provide them with desperately needed resources to do their jobs.  Unfortunately, many of these programs have taken severe budget cuts in recent years.

“One such program is the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program.  This important program supports multi-jurisdictional regional drug task forces and aids our local and state law enforcement in busting drug trafficking rings.  It is the only formula grant program available to local law enforcement agencies.    Through Byrne-JAG dollars, state, county, and city law enforcement are able to work together with federal law enforcement agents to stem the flow of meth and save communities from crime. 

“One success story of Byrne-JAG can be found in my district.  In June of 2005, the ATF, along with the Northwest Regional Drug Task Force, made close to 40 arrests as part of a three-state effort to dismantle a drug and gun-selling operation based in Bellingham, Washington.  The arrests were the culmination of a two-year investigation.  Operation Roadhouse, as it was called, would not have been possible without Byrne-JAG.  Those federal dollars allowed the drug task force to do its part in busting the bad guys.

“Unfortunately, the President has continuously proposed to eliminate the Byrne-JAG program despite success stories like the one in my district.

“The President’s FY08 Budget request again eliminates the Byrne-JAG program but keeps the name “Byrne” as part of the new Byrne Public Safety and Protection program.  This new Byrne program consolidates eleven different justice programs and under funds them.  These eleven programs were funded at almost 800 million dollars individually in FY2006, but the President’s request proposes to fund all eleven at only 350 million dollars for FY2008.

“The Committee graciously included 900 million for the Byrne-JAG program in your fiscal year 2007 budget resolution.  For fiscal year 2008, I encourage you to reject the President’s new Byrne Public Safety and Protection program and to again provide 900 million dollars in budget authority for Byrne-JAG as it stands today.

“Since FY2002, justice assistance program funding in the Department of Justice budget has been cut by more than 63 percent. 

“Crime isn’t just a local issue and we owe it to our constituents to help protect them.

“Another important law enforcement program within DOJ’s budget is the Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, program.  The President proposes to cut COPS by over 500 million dollars in fiscal year 2008.  For fiscal year 2007 he asked for 117 million for COPS, but Congress disregarded that request and funded it at 542 million.  I ask the Committee to again disregard the President’s budget request and to provide full funding for COPS in your budget resolution.

“This week I visited the Drug Enforcement Administration’s training facilities at Quantico and took part in some of the training DEA provides for state and local law enforcement.  I got a small taste of the dangers faced by the men and women on the front lines of the meth epidemic. They confront dangerous criminals, hazardous chemicals and life-threatening explosives every time they bust a meth lab. Our DEA agents do great work and the training they provide is useful preparation for local law enforcement.  Unfortunately, the President’s FY2008 request of 1.8 billion is not enough to hire new agents and the DEA faces a hiring freeze for the next two years.  I encourage this Committee to include enough funding in its budget resolution to fully fund the DEA.

“In conclusion, I’d like to mention a handful of programs that aid both in the fight against meth and drug abuse in general. 

“While law enforcement is important, preventing drug abuse in the first place is key.  Both the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities and the Drug-Free Communities programs are critical to ensuring safe, healthy, and drug-free schools.  For those who miss the prevention message and choose to abuse alcohol and drugs, access to treatment is vital.  The Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant is the backbone of our nation’s publicly funded treatment and prevention system and serves our most vulnerable citizens.

“I again thank you for the opportunity to address the Committee today.  I have additional comments that I will submit for the record.

“Thank you and I’m happy to answer any questions.”

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