HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane got a warm reception Tuesday from the Senate Appropriations Committee, even though she was asking for a $12 million boost in funding for her office.
Kane, a Democrat elected as the state’s chief legal officer less than two years ago, said the nearly 14 percent increase primarily would cover negotiated salaries and benefits for the more than 700 employees and the hiring of 16 additional drug agents.
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett proposes flat-funding the office at $87 million, but Kane says that wouldn’t keep up with costs and her aides said it would eliminate 108 positions.
Committee members quizzed Kane about topics that included her opposition to legalizing marijuana, the success of an ongoing crackdown in Hazleton by her office’s mobile street crimes unit and stepped-up efforts to combat illegal drug use and child sex abuse.
At the end of the two-hour hearing, committee Chairman Jake Corman told Kane that crime affects nearly every community and said the panel would work to fulfill her request.
“We stand here prepared to do whatever we can to join you in these very important battles you are waging,” the Centre County Republican said.
Sen. John Gordner asked Kane about the status of her year-old internal investigation of the criminal investigation that resulted in Jerry Sandusky’s 2012 conviction on 45 counts of child sex abuse and his 30- to 60-year prison sentence.
Kane vowed during her election campaign to investigate why the attorney general’s investigation of Sandusky, which began under then-Attorney General Corbett, took nearly three years. The case set off a major scandal for Pennsylvania’s largest university and public interest remains high.
Gordner, R-Columbia, asked Kane when she expects her investigation to be completed.
“Before October?” he asked.
“I certainly hope so,” she replied.
Rep. David Argall questioned whether the cost of the “war on drugs” is cost-efficient.
“Are the taxpayers getting their money’s worth or is it really time for a completely new approach?” the Schuylkill County Republican said.
Replied Kane: “We will never give up that war. We will never retreat. We will never surrender. If we do, it would be chaos.”
“We can’t have streets that are filled with users and drug dealers who have taken over,” she said. “The taxpayers are getting their money’s worth and then some.”
Kane defended her budget request before the House Appropriations Committee on Monday afternoon.