New Legislation Would Impose Fees on Municipalities That Rely Solely on State Police Services
Governor Tom Wolf stood with Democrats from the House and Senate Tuesday, calling for the legislature to support proposals to implement a municipal fee for state police services. House Bill 959 and Senate Bill 741 would require municipalities to pay a fee if the Pennsylvania State Police provides their full-time local municipal police services. Governor Wolf says as it stands right now, some municipalities aren’t paying their fair share, and it’s hurting the Commonwealth.
“Right now, some municipalities aren’t paying their fair share for State Police protection. And to compensate for that deficit, money is being taken from the Motor License Fund for our roads and our bridges, to pay for state police coverage,” says Governor Wolf.
Nearly 22% of Pennsylvania’s population relies solely on State Police for local patrol services. The other roughly 78% of the state funds their own local police forces, and pays state taxes for Pennsylvania State Police services, without having to rely on them. To provide money for subsidized police coverage in the areas without a local police department, money is coming out of the Motor License Fund, which is meant for infrastructure. According to Representative Mike Sturla, who introduced House Bill 959, the Pennsylvania State Police received $802 million from the Motor License Fund in 2016, which was more than half of their budget that year.
“We should not be sacrificing the infrastructure, the roads and bridges that every single Pennsylvanian uses to cater to municipalities who simply don’t want to pay for their own police force,” Governor Wolf says.
House Bill 959 and Senate Bill 741, introduced by Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, would assess a fee based on population. The fee schedule is set on a sliding scale ranging from $8 per capita for a municipality with a population of 2,000, to $166 per capita for municipalities with a population over 20,000. For example, Harborcreek Township in Erie County would pay $116 per capita with a population of just over 17,000. Their proposed fee total adds up to $2,441,274, which would be the 5th most expensive municipality under House Bill 959. During its first year, the fee would raise about $104 million for the Pennsylvania State Police. PSP Commissioner Colonel Robert Evanchick says funding greatly impacts State Police operations.
“If we lose some of this funding, we could lose some of our cadet classes. We have retirements, we wouldn’t be able to fill those. We’d probably have to change our police practices and our businesses and what we do. Perhaps we’d have to change what types of incidents we respond to,” Colonel Evanchick explains.
These Bills are expected to receive some push-back when they hit their respective floors. Senator Dan Laughlin of Erie County says he doesn’t agree with making municipalities pay State Police Fees, and says there are better options out there.
“If the municipalities would partner with a neighboring municipality that already has a police force, I think that would be a much better path rather than just paying the State Police. I’m really not on board with that. I think there are better options,” says Senator Laughlin. “They are basically getting a service that they aren’t paying for, and that’s why I said perhaps partnering with a neighboring municipality that already has its own police force would be an effective way to get police coverage in these less slightly urban areas,” he adds.
Senator Laughlin is willing to sit down and find a better path to funding the Pennsylvania State Police, but says both sides will need to work together for a deal.
“I think the Legislature needs to look at these problems with a clear vision and compromise. It can’t just be one sided, you have to compromise,” Senator Laughlin says,
House Bill 959 is currently sitting in the Transportation Committee, while Senate Bill 741 was just referred to the Law and Justice Committee on Monday.