NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

December 4, 2012

GOP suggest $30M drug lab request may wait until 2013

(Continued)

Already, district attorneys have suggested they would need $12.7 million to deal with the work of sifting through and dispensing with impacted cases, while public defenders have pegged their costs closer to $75 million.

The state’s official bond statement from September referenced the possibility of lawsuits that could further drive up costs.

“There may be significant, but as yet undetermined, state costs required to account for the chemist’s malfeasance. In addition, there may be costs to defend civil complaints alleging state liability in both state and federal court and for potential judgments. As neither the criminal investigation nor the determination of the number or specific cases affected has been completed, there is not sufficient information to estimate these additional state costs at this time,” the official statement to potential investors stated.

Public Safety Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan told lawmakers at a hearing Wednesday that the State Police have requested $3.4 million from the supplemental budget to hire additional chemists to reduce a backlog of cases at the state drug lab in Sudbury.

“The ability for the State Police to draw from the $30 million provided in that supplemental budget request is absolutely critical. Further delay will only compound the backlog and the lab’s ability to return to normal operations,” Heffernan said.

Both Jones and Tarr said their one hesitation in waiting until after the new year is that Inspector General Glen Cuhna, who is conducting a review of the Hinton lab’s operations and has a limited budget, may be delayed in his work without additional funding.

Tarr wondered how the spending request would impact the state’s overall finances with the governor weighing mid-year budget cuts in light of declining revenue and the possibility that additional crime lab expenses would be required beyond the $30 million before the end of the fiscal year in June.

“There are going to be more tax proposals in the coming months than presents under the Christmas tree,” Tarr said.

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