Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bill Makes Towns Pay for Using Troopers 21 ; of Pa. Residents Rely on State Police

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bill Makes Towns Pay for Using Troopers 21 ; of Pa. Residents Rely on State Police

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG -- When he gets on a roll, there's a hint of evangelical zeal in Rep. Mike Sturla's sales pitch for legislation to charge municipalities that use state police coverage rather than hiring their own officers.

Mr. Sturla, D-Lancaster, said he has tried for 15 years to enact legislation that would subtract from state liquid fuels tax allocations to municipalities that fully rely on the state for their police protection.

In effect, the 79 percent of Pennsylvanians who live in municipalities that maintain their own forces are paying twice, he said -- for their own police and the state troopers that patrol areas with no local department.

"It's simply unfair," he said at a news conference last week.

Mr. Sturla said the annual cost of state police patrols in municipalities without forces is $563 million, money that he says should be going to fix roads and bridges. He said his legislation would retrieve about $200 million of that in the first year by reducing state liquid fuels tax distributions to municipalities that don't have police, and up to $450 million by the fifth year.

All of Allegheny County and much of Beaver County have local police coverage. Large parts of Washington, Westmoreland and Butler counties do not. Much of rural Pennsylvania is patrolled only by state police.

The largest Pittsburgh suburb in population, Hempfield in Westmoreland County, spends none of its $12.4 million budget on police, relying on the state for coverage. By contrast, Penn Hills in Allegheny County, with a population nearly as large, allocated $8.4 million for its police force in its $28.8 million budget for this year, or about $450 per household.

R. Douglas Weimer, chairman of the Hempfield board of supervisors, said township residents contribute $25 million to the state in income and deed transfer taxes, and businesses generate multiple millions more in sales taxes.

"They're getting their fair share from Hempfield without grabbing any more," he said.

Polling has shown residents are overwhelmingly satisfied with the protection they get from state police. The level of service is not comparable to what municipal forces provide -- response times in non- life-threatening calls can be several hours, Mr. …

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