Tester vows fight to restore anti-drug funding

Senator hears from Montana law enforcers during today’s Drugbusters' Summit

(GREAT FALLS, Mont.) – Following his Montana Drugbusters' Summit in Great Falls today, Senator Jon Tester vowed to work with his colleagues in the U.S. Senate to restore funding to help law enforcement officers fight illegal drugs across Montana.

The Bush Administration has proposed cutting $350 million from nationwide drug-fighting efforts.  Montana relies on that federal money to help fund seven regional drug task forces which serve all corners of the state.

Montana's drug task forces work closely with various state, local and federal law agencies to investigate and prevent drug trafficking and manufacture.

During today's Drugbusters' Summit, officers in charge of six of drug task forces shared information and stories with Tester, saying cuts to the program will significantly impact the war on drugs across Montana.

Jeff Faycosh, the Regional Agent in Charge of the Eastern Montana Drug Task Force in Miles City, told Tester his task force currently receives $95,460 in yearly federal funding.  Under the President's proposal, his task force would receive only $31,501, leaving local governments to make up the difference.

"Deciding where to spend the dollars is about making priorities," Tester said.  "And this is a pretty high priority.  These drug task forces work, and they fight to keep our communities safe and drug-free.  Making sure they get the funding they need is a no-brainer in my book."

Faycosh said between April 2002 and April 2008, the Eastern Montana Drug Task Force initiated 440 drug investigations, made 162 drug arrests, seized 2,515 grams of meth and nearly 53,000 grams marijuana, and busted 36 drug labs.

Tester and his staff took notes on all presentations during today's summit.  He will use the information to do what he can to restore funding at the federal level, perhaps in a supplemental spending bill due before Congress in the coming weeks.

Last month Tester, Senator Max Baucus and 50 other Senators sent a letter asking the Senate Appropriations Committee to restore critical federal funding for drug task forces.