Legislators: coal decline could lead to less funding to fight war on drugs

By: Paige Quiggins Email
By: Paige Quiggins Email

MANCHESTER, Ky. (WYMT) - Legislators said they have been providing funding to one organization that helps fight the war on drugs since 2006. Some claim the so-called "war on coal" might have an impact on how much they can do.

The drug problem has affected many across the region and some said coal could actually have an impact on the fight against drugs.

“It is both catastrophic and it is tragic,” said Sen. Robert Stivers (R) of Manchester.

Stivers and others said it is a problem that impacts everyone.

“Social services are removing children from the house, children are getting exposed to the manufacturing and the fumes of methamphetamine,” said Stivers.
“And that is why the legislature, especially eastern Kentucky legislators, Democrat and Republican, have felt it appropriate to try to fund this at levels to where we can continue to make a difference.”

Stivers and other legislators said they want to do more to combat the problem which they said shows no mercy on its subjects.

“It cuts across party lines. It cuts across geographic lines. It cuts across racial lines, economic lines,” said Rep. Greg Stumbo (D) of Prestonsburg.
“It affects the rich and the poor, the well educated and the not so well educated… It is a true epidemic.”

One lawmaker who had primarily worked in other areas said he asked to become part of the judiciary committee specifically to help pass legislation to fight that epidemic.

“Seeing the impact it was having in my district, seeing the children and the people that were silently suffering made me want to get involved,” said Sen. Brandon Smith (R) Hazard.

Officials said coal has helped fight the war on drugs through coal severance tax dollars helping Operation UNITE.

Congressman Hal Rogers said when federal money was cut, state legislators stepped up and tapped into the multi county coal severance fund to bring that money to UNITE.

Stivers said with the decline in the coal industry, they were only able to allocate that money for so long. He said they are not sure what that is going to mean for the funding from the state level to the organization.

“That would be a concern of how much money we would have in the future if severance tax continues to decline,” said Stivers.

Stivers said they wanted to help continue changing and saving lives through programs like Operation UNITE.

Many said the future is uncertain.

Officials said they have allocated millions for the program through the multi county fund which goes back into the counties in the district which generated that money.

They have only set aside funds until the end of the next bi-annual period, which ends in June of 2014. Stivers said the amount of coal severance tax dollars money is a function of 4.5 percent times the sale price per ton of coal. He said $300 million was generated, but he believed over the past six to eight months, that number has declined.

Stivers said the money began in 2006, when $1.5 million dollars was allocated to give to the program. In 2007 and 2008, $1.25 million was set aside and from 2009 until the present, $2 million per year has been given to UNITE.

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