- The Washington Times - Friday, March 1, 2002

RICHMOND Gov. Mark R. Warner is criticizing Republican lawmakers' focus on the war on terrorism, saying their efforts are diverting millions of dollars from the war on drugs.
"Simply taking away some dollars that were already in public safety and calling it now homeland security, that doesn't help those first-line responders [to drug crimes]," Mr. Warner, a Democrat, said recently. "That does raise some concerns."
In its $50 billion budget for 2003-04, the House of Delegates would divert 60 Virginia State Police troopers from drug-enforcement programs to homeland security. It also would cut $18.4 million from the Substance Abuse Reduction and Enforcement (Sabre) program for the treatment of people convicted of drug-related crimes.
Mr. Warner said he is disappointed with the Republican-controlled House and Senate earmarking $30 million in fee increases to shore up a $3.8 billion budget gap, instead of following his suggestion of using the funds for anti-terrorism efforts.
He said there is evidence of a link between drug trading and terrorism, which he said is another reason drug enforcement should not be abandoned. "The fact is, as we've seen, the drug traders sometimes are some of the ones that [fund] some of the terrorists," he said.
The Senate's budget proposal would not cut any money from Sabre and actually would restore $5 million to the program that had been cut in the budget introduced by Gov. James S. Gilmore III, a Republican.
The Senate's budget also would add troopers for homeland security without cutting the number involved in anti-drug efforts. Under Sabre, about 40 troopers are serving as part of a special task force that works closely with local law enforcement agencies to eradicate drug traffic and arrest drug dealers.
The House and Senate will have to hammer out their budget differences before the legislature adjourns March 9.
State Police Superintendent Col. W. Gerald Massengill said he does not like the idea of the General Assembly spelling out in legislation how his department is to deploy troopers.
Col. Massengill said he agrees with Mr. Warner and others who say one area of law enforcement should not be sacrificed for another. "We don't want to take away from narcotics interdiction to do that," he said. "We cannot let our guard down when it comes to terrorism or drugs."
Delegate Vincent F. Callahan Jr., Fairfax Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the limited resources for public safety must be shifted because the threat of terrorism is great.
"It's basically because we're at war, and when you're at war, you do things differently," he said.
He noted that Sabre was devised in the past few years and has never been completely funded, adding that laws proscribing tougher penalties for drug violations are still on the books.
But Delegate Brian J. Moran, Alexandria Democrat and a member of the State Crimes Commission, said both homeland security and drug enforcement should be priorities.
"Did we end the war on drugs?" Mr. Moran asked. "I didn't know we had capitulated."


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