Idaho's anti-drug programs should not suffer much in the coming year as a result of Congress' decision to scale back drug grants to states, law enforcement officials say.
According to figures compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures, Idaho drug-enforcement programs have been allocated $871,000 in federal funds for the current fiscal year.That's $258,000 more than for the fiscal year that ended Oct. 1, but $229,000 below the funding level approved when the grant program began in fiscal 1987.
Only eight states, including Montana and Wyoming, and the District of Columbia will receive less federal drug-enforcement money than Idaho during fiscal 1989. But U.S. Attorney Maurice Ellsworth and Idaho Department of Law Enforcement spokesman Bill Overton said the funding squeeze should not mean layoffs or program cuts.
"What it basically means is that we will not be able to expand task force operations statewide," Overton said.
"We don't see big problems occurring," Ellsworth added. "I think that well-run, effective programs will be able to find funding."
Overton said that when Congress authorized the grant program in 1986, law enforcement officials in Idaho tried to create a system that would not dissolve if money was cut back.
Tight funding could slow the purchase of laboratory equipment and an automated fingerprint identification system linking Idaho with other western states, he said.
But Ellsworth remained optimistic that Idaho can garner enough funds to continue a strong anti-drug campaign. He stressed the importance of volunteer programs and urged agencies to be alert for additional grants to apply for.
Ellsworth said another method of bolstering the drug-fighting budget is confiscation of funds from drug dealers. Through asset forfeiture, the money can be appropriated by agencies responsible for the arrests.