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Attorney General Tom Horne Blasts Democrat Legislators for Demanding Removal of $1.2 Million in Drug Cartel Enforcement Funding in State Budget

Phoenix, AZ (Monday, June 24, 2013) – $1.2 million dollars directed to the Attorney General’s Office for investigating, prosecuting and convicting members of violent drug cartels operating between Mexico and Arizona is about to run out as a result of Democratic legislators’ mistaken belief that it was to fight illegal immigration, Attorney General Tom Horne said today.

“During the budget negotiations earlier this month, Democrats who had bargaining power due to Medicaid expansion, demanded the removal of $1.2 million that were used to pay for attorneys, law enforcement agents and support staff at the Attorney General’s Office to put members and leaders of drug cartels behind bars. This is an outrageous blunder on their part.”

The Governor and the Republican Legislators supported continuation of this funding.

The cross border funding has been available to the Attorney General’s Office since 2009. The money has been used to dismantle drug cartels, for example, on the border at the Tohono O’Odham reservation, and between Yuma and Sells, where the cartel had imported $2 billion of drugs. 

In Fiscal Year 2012, these funds were used to charge 317 criminal defendants with felony offenses; completed and closed approximately $3.6 million in asset forfeitures, and assisted 488 victims. During the first six months of the current 2013 Fiscal Year, these dollars have resulted in 99 criminal defendants being charged with felonies; the completion and closure of approximately $2 million in asset forfeitures, and have assisted approximately 286 victims. In addition, the loss of this funding means the loss of between 75 to 85 percent of the forfeiture funds that are sent to various Arizona city, county and state law enforcement agencies.

Horne continued, “This does tremendous harm to our efforts to bring these violent criminals to justice, and the way it happened is a farce: During budget negotiations some Democrat legislators saw the budget line item for the drug cartel enforcement unit, which for years has been labeled as ‘cross-border enforcement’. For whatever reason, that language inflamed those legislators and they demanded the money be taken out. Had they taken just a moment to learn the actual uses for these funds, they hopefully would have not made this blunder, but they clearly did not want to take the time to consider the weight of their actions and the result is a huge blow to Arizona’s efforts to combat drug cartels.

In the meantime, I can find other sources to keep this program alive until January, when the legislature reconvenes. I call on the Democrats to correct their error and participate in a bipartisan bill to restore the funding, which can be effective immediately with a 2/3 vote. That will ensure this vital enforcement operation continues to do its work.”

For more information, please visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nxuyeZisbw