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Gore wants to add 10,000 prosecutors

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Al Gore upped the ante Wednesday in his self-described bid to be "a law enforcement president" by proposing to hire 10,000 new prosecutors in communities nationwide.

The vice president's campaign proposal is modeled after President Clinton's grant program to put 100,000 new community police officers on the streets — the COPS program, which Gore has already proposed expanding by 50,000.

The Democratic presidential candidate was promoting the proposals to Kansas City-area law enforcement personnel.

In prepared remarks for his speech at Raytown City Hall, Gore said he was focusing on the "front lines."

"We need more police. We need more crime-fighting prosecutors. And then we have to give them all the tools and resources they need to make even the toughest crime 'hot spots' safe and secure," Gore said.

According to a 1996 Bureau of Justice Statistics survey, one quarter of prosecutor offices do not employ a full-time prosecutor.

Gore also proposed a fund to target investments in crime "hot spots," communities where, contrary to the national trend, crimes rates have gone up. Such a fund, his campaign said, "would provide resources to hire more police, pay cops overtime in troubled crime areas, equip neighborhoods with the latest crime prevention technologies and help local law enforcement work in cooperation with federal authorities."

The two pieces are part of a previously announced package of $1.1 billion in additional crime-fighting spending by the federal government over 10 years, which Gore said would be paid for out of projected budget surpluses.

Crime is this week's main focus for Gore, although he appears preoccupied by the Texas budget and its shortfall of at least $610 million, due, state officials say, to underestimated Medicaid costs.

In fact, the vice president abruptly scrapped his schedule for Thursday in order to make a campaign stop in San Antonio, Texas, to highlight the state's budget problems.

"We have to have responsible budgeting so that we don't put a tax cut for the wealthy ahead of crime-fighting or health care or education," Gore said at a YMCA playground in Kansas City.

Gore's Republican presidential opponent, George W. Bush, is the Texas governor and Gore has used the budget news out of Texas to question whether Bush could ably steward the national economy.

In two Tuesday night speeches here in Missouri — at a downtown rally, then at a $125,000 Democratic National Committee fund-raising dinner, Gore said nothing of the crime proposal he'd passionately advanced earlier in the day, a constitutional amendment guaranteeing rights to crime victims.

"I want to be a law enforcement president and I want to be a president who fights for victims' rights," Gore said in Memphis, Tenn.

Instead, Gore, in Missouri, tore into Bush for proposing more than $1.3 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years, and seeking to allow workers to invest some of their Social Security payroll taxes in the stock market.

Bush and his allies, Gore said, want "to swing the pendulum when it's straight up and down. They want to swing it not only toward privatizing Social Security but a big ol' tax cut for the wealthy."

"I just think that we need to have simple fiscal responsibility," Gore said.

"President Clinton and I have steered a very responsible course. There hasn't been any jumping off the deep end."