Newsbrief: Oregon Drug Task Force Wants Tax Hike to Fund Operations 9/13/02

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The asset forfeiture reform initiative passed by Oregon voters in 2000 is causing financial problems for the state's 25 multi-jurisdictional drug task forces, and one of them, the South Coast Interagency Narcotics Team, will ask Coos County voters this November to approve a tax increase to fund its operations, the Oregonian (Portland) reported on Saturday. The task force may have to shut down or sharply scale back by next spring if the tax measure is not approved, said team coordinator Sgt. Dan Looney of the Coos County Sheriff's Department.

The South Coast task force isn't the only one facing problems. According to the Oregonian, Portland's Regional Organized Crime Narcotics Agency is also running out of money. The task force can operate until June 2003, "and then we'll have to make tough management decisions," said Multnomah County (Portland) District Attorney Michael Schrunk.

A 1989 asset forfeiture law allowed police to use seized cash and goods to finance their operations, but after voters approved reform in 2000, that money was largely directed to drug treatment. After law enforcement bellowed loudly, the Oregon legislature last year approved a bill that directed 40% of seizure to police and prosecutors. But that isn't enough for the task forces.

The Coos County ballot measure seeks to raise $250,000 for the drug squad, which has a budget this year of $319,000. The tax increase would come to $12.18 for an average Coos County home valued at $87,000.

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