Harrisburg, Pa – At a press conference with legislators and the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), Governor Tom Wolf called for support yesterday for legislation that will impose a fee to municipalities that do not have a local police department and rely solely on State Police for local police coverage, which includes Loyalsock Township.
“We all want safe communities,” Gov. Wolf said. “That means adequate police protection and structurally sound roads and bridges. But right now, some municipalities are not paying their fair share for police protection, and to compensate for that deficit, money is being taken from the Motor License Fund that would otherwise go to our roads and bridges.”
Rep. Mike Sturla’s House Bill 959 and Sen. Jay Costa’s Senate Bill 741 will correct that imbalance by requiring municipalities that rely on state police to chip in on the cost of coverage. The fee will help supplement the funding PSP will lose as the Motor License Fund draw-down is reduced by 4 percent annually until it is capped in 2027.
In response to Gov. Wolf's announcement yesterday, David M. Sanko, the Executive Director of the Pa State Association of Township Supervisors said, "All Pennsylvania residents pay state income tax to access State Police services. No one should be forced to pay twice. In fact, instead of looking for ways to collect more money, let’s look at some ways to control costs. Period."
Rep. Sturla said the fee is fair, however. “While 80 percent of Pennsylvanians pay for their local police services, some with average incomes barely above poverty, 20 percent rely solely on the PSP. The PSP is using Motor License Fund dollars to help fund those patrols and everyone is missing out on road and bridge repair projects that would improve public safety for all. Charging a reasonable fee for the exemplary service the PSP provides will give them the resources needed to provide those services while preserving public safety.”
“When local governments disbanded their police forces, our State troopers stepped in to do the work,” Sen. Costa added. “They upheld their oath to protect all of our citizens. The problem in this funding stream is not with our brave men and women who are officers. But they are doing a new job now, and we need a fair, guaranteed revenue for their expanded scope.”
House Bill 959 and Senate Bill 741 would assess a fee on municipalities where the State Police provides full-time local policing services. The fee would be assessed to the municipality on a per-capita basis according to the most recent decennial census population, excluding the institutionalized population in state Department of Corrections Institutions. Distressed municipalities and those in Act 47 status are exempt from paying the fee.
The fee schedule is set on a sliding scale ranging from $8.00 per capita for a municipality with a population up to 2,000, to $166 per capita for municipalities with a population over 20,000.
Sanko said, "Because the real crux of the issue is that local police services are prohibitively expensive. This is a direct result of collective bargaining and pension mandates from the state that inflate these costs beyond the reach of most communities, even those with a solid tax base. Rather than adding to the list of mandates – as HB 959 and SB 741 and their dear departed brethren have proposed – lawmakers should focus on making policing affordable for all communities, including those that have and need local police but are struggling under the financial burden to the point of becoming distressed."
But Gov. Wolf reinforced that all Pennsylvanians pay their fair share. "I’m asking for support for House Bill 959 and Senate Bill 741, which will help ensure all communities are kept safe without taking anything away from the infrastructure we all share and need.”