HARRISBURG – At a press conference with legislators and the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday called for support 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.
“We all want safe communities,” 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.
“This fee is about fairness,” Sturla said. “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 are 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,” Costa said. “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.”
“Approximately 10 million taxpayers currently support their own municipal police through local taxes,” State Police Commissioner Col. Robert Evanchick said.
“This proposal simply asks the municipalities that do not fund a police department to begin to share in the cost that their neighbors already shoulder.
“This proposal begins to close the looming budget gap and creates a framework for supporting public safety now and in the years to come.”
House Bill 959 and Senate Bill 741 would assess a fee on municipalities where the state police provide 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 per capita for a municipality with a population up to 2,000, to $166 per capita for municipalities with a population over 20,000.
During its first year, the fee would raise an estimated $104 million for PSP operations, services and cadet classes. Any fee increases would occur annually, based on the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) for the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD area. If the CPI-U does not increase, neither would the fee.
“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,” Wolf said. “It’s time that all Pennsylvanians pay their fair share.”