Lawmakers want to charge municipalities for State Police protection

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- People in the Commonwealth could soon be paying more for police protection.

Some Pennsylvania state lawmakers are trying to pass legislation that would allow the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) to charge municipalities which rely on their service.

There are some obvious winners and losers.

The winners: Pennsylvania State Police, PennDOT, and contractors for PennDOT, according to Governor Tom Wolf.

Money designated for bridge work, road repairs, and pothole paving is instead supporting the PSP, according to Wolf.

The losers: Municipalities, which haven't paid in years, that could suddenly be facing a huge expense.

"It's the reality for all of us without a police force. Everybody is going to get hit hard," explained Daniel Rosario, West Hanover Township's manager.

West Hanover Township in Dauphin County is one of those municipalities.

If House Bill 959 is passed, Rosario believes the township would be forced to pony up roughly $1 million, which is about one third of its yearly budget, to pay for PSP services.

It's dependent on a sliding scale, with fees ranging from $8 per person in an area with 2,000 people or less all the way up to a staggering $166 per person with a population over 20,000.

"That is high. That is a lot more than they were talking several years ago - about $25 per person. That's a lot of money for a township trying to figure out to incorporate into a budget," explained Rosario.

State leaders at a press conference in Harrisburg said it is cash required to keep the PSP afloat.

Officials say troopers have spent roughly half their time and the PSP's budget providing full-time coverage for roughly 22 percent of the state's population.

"The PSP always answers the call, but the demand for PSP services and the drain on our department's resources continues to grow," explained Colonel Robert Evanchick of Pennsylvania State Police.

"The more and more these men and women are being stretched to be able to cover more and more territory without necessarily having increase in the complement, makes it very difficult and what we won't want to happen is have these men and women stretched too thin," explained Senator Jay Costa.

Governor Tom Wolf says that demand has robbed Pennsylvania of its Motor License Funding over the years, approximately $800 million taken from it in 2016.

Officials gave that cash to the PSP so they could continue the protect the approximately $2 million people without a local police force.

"We should not be sacrificing the infrastructure, the roads, the bridges, that every single Pennsylvanian uses to cater to municipalities who don't want to pay for their own police force," said Governor Tom Wolf.

"If we just want to stop paving roads, no more potholes, no more paving, no more bridge repairs, we can have an equitable system, or these people can start to actually pay 1/6th of what the actual cost is for the services they receive," said Chairman Mike Sturla.

If passed, some local leaders say they have three options: increase taxes, create their own police force, or pay other local departments to protect their people.

The proposed legislation comes as budget season looms for many local municipalities.

"Since July 1 is around the corner, got to figure out how we're going to do this," said Rosario.

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