Gov. Ed Rendell said Thursday that state funding for Drug Abuse Resistance Education grants should be cut to help balance the state's 2009-2010 budget.
He said the line item for the DARE program is one of 100 he wants to cut to balance the budget, although he said some of the programs that get the ax will likely be funded in the future once the state's dire financial situation improves.
"I take no pleasure in any of these eliminations," Rendell said.
The disclosure came during a conference call only days before Rendell is scheduled to deliver his 2009-2010 budget address.
In addition to DARE, Rendell also mentioned he would propose no funding for Governor's Schools of Excellence, which are summer programs for talented students, and health literacy grants.
Rendell said the forecast for next budget year is dire, even with the possibility of billions in federal aid.
He also wants Pennsylvania for the first time to start taxing smokeless tobacco and cigars, he said, and to raise the cigarette tax by a dime. But Rendell said now is not the time for broad-based tax increases.
Bullseye: The DARE program is a familiar target for cuts.
The state initially budgeted $1.5 million for DARE grants this budget year, which ends in June, but that figure was subsequently cut down to $925,000 to help address the state's existing budget shortfall, said Tara Mead, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
Mead noted that a lack of state funding doesn't mean an end to the DARE program in Pennsylvania.
She said the department has requested $1.5 million for 2009-2010.
Local reaction: Newberry Township Police Chief John Snyder said cutting DARE funding wouldn't affect the department's efforts to reach out to young people in 2009.
"I believe that we'll do it anyway," he said. "My belief is that it has been a positive thing for our department."
Snyder said the DARE talks have created a rapport between students and officers. Some students have contacted their DARE instructors years after finishing school seeking help or advice.
"I think it makes a difference. For us, it exposes the students to the officers," he said.
York City Police Commissioner Mark Whitman said his department no longer has the manpower to participate with DARE, but he said cutting the program at the state level would be a mistake.
"I think DARE should be used from kindergarten all the way up through high school," he said. "It shouldn't be cut, it should be added to."
-- Staff writer Peter Mergenthaler contributed to this report.