In an effort to stem an increase in violent crime in the
state, the Pennsylvania House has approved a bill that would add 10,000 police
officers across the state. The price tag is $450 million.
House lawmakers voted 175-20 Oct. 24 to send the bill back
to the Senate for approval of changes. If approved, the bill - SB812 - would
head to the governor's desk.
Sponsored by House Speaker John Perzel, R-Philadelphia, the
bill would require counties to pay 30 percent - $135 million - of the cost for
the new officers and municipalities would pay 20 percent - $90 million. The
state would pick up the tab for the remaining 50 percent - $225 million.
Opponents say the bill could cause a problem for financially
strapped communities. Commissioners in Westmoreland County, PA, said a local
tax increase likely would be required to offset the cost, the Pittsburgh
Supporters deny it would present a hardship for county
"It's not a mandate. It's their choice, and counties can
choose not to participate," Al Bowman, a spokesman for Perzel, told the Tribune
Officers would be added during the next four years using a
distribution formula that takes into account the existing number of officers,
crime rate and population. That would amount to about 2,600 hires annually
throughout the state.