Tester makes case to restore drugbusting money
Senator shares input from Drugbusters' Summit on Senate Floor
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Armed with feedback from his Montana Drugbusters' Summit, Senator Jon Tester today took to the floor of the U.S. Senate to urge his colleagues to restore vital drug-fighting funding.
"If we don't, these cuts will cripple the progress we've made in the war on drugs in rural states like Montana," Tester said during a speech today.
The Bush Administration has proposed cutting $350 million from nationwide drug-fighting efforts.
Montana's seven regional drug task forces depend on federal funding to operate. If the funding is cut, the Montana task forces will be forced to make drastic budget cuts. The cuts could result in the layoffs of up to 27 officers.
Today's speech stemmed from Tester's recent Montana Drugbusters' Summit in Great Falls. Tester organized the summit to hear from drug enforcement officers from across. Montana. Sheriff's deputies, narcotics officers, local and state police shared success stories, as well as the challenges they face.
Tester shared that input during today's floor speech.
"These drug task forces are success stories," Tester said. "The officers are on the front lines, keeping drugs, smugglers and dealers off our streets. They make our communities safer. They make Montana a better place to live and raise a family."
Tester asked to restore the $350 million in proposed cuts to an upcoming emergency spending bill, which the Senate will consider later this month.
Tester's speech, as prepared for delivery, appears below.
U.S. Senator Jon Tester
May 1, 2008
Mr./Madame President, I rise today to urge the inclusion of JAG/Byrne grant funding in the emergency supplemental that we will consider in the coming weeks.
A week ago I organized a summit of Drugbuster law enforcement in my home state of Montana.
I asked all the leaders of Montana's drug task forces to come together to talk about federal funding. It's such an important issue, many of them drove hundreds of miles across the state in a spring blizzard to take part.
The drug task forces are made up of dedicated law enforcement officers from every part of Montana: Sheriff's deputies, narcotics officers, local and state police and undercover agents. They work together—across jurisdictions—to bust drug smugglers as well as those who grow or manufacture in-state.
There's cause for concern. The President proposes slashing $350 million from drug task forces nationwide. If that happens, Montana will lose a staggering 70-percent of its federal drug-fighting money next year.
And task forces would probably have to lay off 27 agents—leaving only 22 officers to battle drugs statewide.
Mr./Madame President we shouldn't let that happen. We should find a way to fund these drug task forces in the Supplemental spending bill we will be considering in the next few weeks.
If we don't, these cuts will cripple the progress we've made in the war on drugs in rural states like Montana.
Mr./Madame President, these drug task forces are success stories. The officers are on the front lines, keeping drugs, smugglers and dealers off our streets. They make our communities safer. They make Montana a better place to live and raise a family.
These drug busters work together to get the job done. Because drugs aren't limited by borders, these task forces rely on federal funding to facilitate cooperation across jurisdictions. It works.
Just last weekend folks picking up trash in Havre, Montana, stumbled across a dumped meth lab. They called police. And within minutes, task force agents were on scene to help clean it up and keep the community safe.
A week ago Monday I heard about a drug operation busted in a remote part of southeastern Montana. So remote, in fact, the task force needed the help of a National Guard helicopter to find it. Officers found three pounds of meth.
Last summer, the Northwest Montana Drug Task Force investigated a case that took them across state lines—to Salt Lake City. In the end they seized two pounds of cocaine and took 20 illegal weapons off the streets. They say they couldn't have done it without their ability to work together.
For example, one task force busted a meth lab in a home. Through surveillance, they knew children were present and they took precautions not to put the children in any more danger. When the bust was made, one child inside tested positive for meth, because he was living in the house where they were cooking up meth.
Even his toys were covered by meth residue. This case set the standard for the way officers deal with and protect children in harm's way. This is a very real concern, in just one year, Montana's drug task forces rescued 84 children from homes where they were exposed to drugs and dealers.
Mr./Madame President, to me, restoring this funding is a no-brainer. And as one of the officers put it, we will end up spending more money in the future if we have to play catch up.
During my summit last week, officers told me again and again that without federal funding, our small communities will be devastated. Our children exposed to drugs and crime. Families torn apart.
I hope we can all work together to restore this funding. Montana can't afford not to. No state can. Americans deserve better.
Thank you Mr./Madame President. I yield the floor.