Pennsylvania bills would charge certain towns for police protection

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 9/11/2017

The pursuit continues in Pennsylvania to address budget concerns for the State Police. Multiple options would rely on certain municipalities to help cover expenses.

Two-thirds of the state’s 2,561 towns have either part-time or no local full-time police coverage. Instead, the affected locales rely on patrolling services of the Pennsylvania State Police.

Revenue to pay for the service comes from the state’s motor license fund. However, the affected communities do not pay more.

Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, is among a growing group of state legislators who want to change the setup. His bill calls for municipalities around the state that rely on the State Police for coverage to pay a fee.

There are growing concerns at the statehouse because of the nearly $800 million from the motor license fund that goes to the State Police to cover expenses for the added patrols. The money is intended for road and bridge work.

Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed charging a $25 per-person fee in municipalities that mostly rely on State Police. The fee is estimated to raise $60 million for roads and bridges.

Sturla’s bill, HB959, would authorize the collection of a $110 fee when fully implemented.

“It’s really about fairness and asking people to pitch in and pay for the services they are receiving,” Sturla said.

He added that about 28 percent of the population is receiving coverage from the State Police without paying for the coverage.

“That’s really unfair to the other 72 percent of Pennsylvanians that are subsidizing free PSP coverage while paying for their own coverage.”

Municipalities that opt to implement their own local police force, or join with neighboring municipalities to create a regional police force, would no longer have to pay a fee.

The bill is in the House Transportation Committee.

Similarly, HB1619 and SB813, would start the fee amount at $25.

Rep. Stan Saylor, R-York, is behind another bill that would impose a $234 per-person fee in towns that rely solely, or partly, on the police force for patrols. The fee would apply only when the municipality has more than 10,000 people.

The State Police estimates the per capita cost of providing full-time policing services is $234.

Saylor’s bill, HB822, is also in the House Transportation Committee.

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