HARRISBURG - State Rep. Kurt Masser, who lost his niece to a heroin overdose last year, said he'd like to see more money in Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed budget to help those struggling with drug addiction.

Masser (R-107) said he hasn't had a chance to closely study the budget, but noticed in a first blush Tuesday that some line items under drug and alcohol programs had stayed the same or been reduced.

"And that's a concern, because the problem is growing," he said about drug abuse. "We can try to help with treatment now or we can pay a lot more in incarceration and court costs down the line."

The budget shows spending for "assistance to drug and alcohol programs" at $41.2 million for 2014-15, the same spent the past two fiscal years. The overall drug and alcohol department budget does show a proposed increase from $122.7 million to $131.7 million for 2014-15, but almost all of it comes from a boost in federal funding. There are six pages in the 1,088-page budget that discuss various appropriations and objectives for the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.

Masser's niece, Erika Smith, died Nov. 24, and two men face drug charges in connection with her death.

Masser said he was well aware of the drug addiction problem prior to his niece's death, but "it brought it front and center."

"We have to get serious about the issue," he said.

Ag funding

Masser, who called the proposed budget a "good starting point," also noted agriculture funding as an area he'll be addressing.

"Funding for our state's No. 1 industry needs to be beefed up a bit," he was quoted in a joint budget statement with fellow Northumberland County Republican Lynda Schlegel Culver (R-108).

Masser's district, while covering the lower anthracite region, also includes the greater Elysburg area, Franklin and Cleveland townships in Columbia County and all of Montour County, areas where farming is prominent.

Masser said he'll be attending hearings in the coming weeks to listen to testimony and gain further insight into the budget proposal.

Culver's and Masser's video comments are available for viewing at www.youtube.com/PABudgetNews.

For more information on the budget proposal or any state-related issue, contact Culver's Sunbury district office at 570-286-5885 or LyndaCulver.com or Masser's district office in Elysburg at 570-648-8017, or at RepMasser.com.