Oregon gubernatorial candidates focus on trooper shortage

| 8/8/2006

With the November election three months away, the race for the governor's seat in Oregon recently turned its focus to the shortage of state troopers to patrol roads and highways. The police force has been cut in half during the past 27 years.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski told those gathered Aug. 1 at a ceremony marking the 75 th anniversary of the Oregon State Police that he's working on a funding plan to add more than 125 more troopers. If re-elected, the Democratic governor said he would ask state lawmakers to approve the plan during the session that starts in January.

Ron Saxton, the Republican gubernatorial hopeful, said shortly after the governor's announcement that he also supports adding to the state trooper ranks. In addition, Saxton placed part of the blame on Kulongoski for the shortage of uniformed patrol officers, The Associated Press reported.

Neither the governor – who's seeking a second term – nor Saxton were willing to say at this point how they would pay for more troopers. They agreed, however, that 24-hour patrols, seven days a week must be restored throughout the state.

The state police was once largely supported by fuel tax, but now the agency's money is routed from the state general fund. As a result, the agency must compete with schools, social services and other programs for budget dollars.

The result is that the number of troopers on patrol has dropped from 665 troopers in 1979 to 333 troopers today. And those troopers are patrolling increasingly congested freeways.

No area of the state receives around-the-clock coverage.