Communities would pay up to $7M for state police under Wolf’s proposed 2019 budget

  • Emily Previti, PA Post

Municipalities now getting free state police coverage would be asked to pay as much as $7 million for it under one component in the governor’s proposed budget.

Pennsylvania law puts state police in charge of law enforcement in communities without their own local cops. That setup has long concerned many officials. But they’re now under pressure because the commonwealth has been cutting down money from its Motor License Fund that goes to the Pennsylvania State Police.

Half of Pennsylvania’s 2,600 communities rely on state troopers for local law enforcement services, and more than 400 others have part-time coverage.

Many are rural: Collectively, municipalities patrolled exclusively by PSP account for nearly 20 percent of the state’s population (nearly 27 percent if you include places with part-time coverage) and about 80 percent of its land mass.


Gov. Tom Wolf has broached this idea before, suggesting for a $25 per person payment from local governments.

Wolf’s latest proposal is different, though.

It calls for a population-scaled fee that would generate about $108 million, nearly 70 percent more than the flat rate, according to a PA Post analysis.

The per capita payment would start at $8 for communities with 2,000 or fewer residents, increase to $17 per capita for those with between 2,000-3,000 people, then $25 per capita for those with 3,000-4,000 people and so on, scaling up $8 or $9 per capita for every thousand residents and topping out at $166 per capita for communities of 20,000 or more, according to a payment schedule from the Governor’s Office.

State Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Red Lion, said that ask is too steep and that a phased payment would be better.

“Just about every municipality in Pennsylvania would have to pay it,” said Saylor, who has worked on this issue and heads the House Appropriations Committee. “And in some cases, it would be too much of a burden on them.”

Other Republicans, meanwhile, say the amount has to be enough to dissuade communities from relying on state police for law enforcement.

“The last proposal … would’ve been cheaper for them to pay the fine than provide a police force,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson. “Clearly we don’t want to do that.”

Also problematic: Poorer communities appear to essentially subsidize police in wealthier communities, according to one report from the Pennsylvania Economy League.

Wolf’s funding plan would generate less than a quarter of the nearly half billion-dollar estimated cost for state police to provide coverage in communities without local law enforcement.

That doesn’t take into account their increased presence in certain schools.

“Given Pennsylvania is currently 500 troopers below its complement and is the primary law enforcement agency for about 85 percent of the commonwealth, the PSTA supports any effort to fund cadet classes in order to avert a staffing crisis,” Pennsylvania State Troopers Association President David Kennedy said in a written statement.

“We also believe the time is now for a new manpower study by the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee that would examine current and future staffing needs. The last study was done nearly two decades ago. It’s long past time to update this.”

 

A note about the data: PA Post used U.S. Census 2017 population estimates, a proposed payment schedule from the Governor’s Office and municipal police coverage data generated Jan. 4 from the Pennsylvania State Police.

Editor’s note: The map has been updated to include a legend.

 

Up Next
Health

Pa. budget would add $400 million to Human Services