State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Lawmakers say restructuring police budget is vital. But how?

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Mar 3, 2017 9:14 PM

The state police budget leans heavily on the motor license fund. (Photo by AP)

(Harrisburg) -- Every year, a hefty portion of the budget for the state police comes from a fund that's supposed go toward roads and bridges.

While the commonwealth has made some moves to fix that incongruous fiscal relationship, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they still need to find a replacement revenue source.

The state police drew more than $800 million of their $1.2 billion budget from the motor license fund this year. That's almost 70 percent.

The legislature made a preliminary move to shift that burden when they passed their 2016-17 budget by including language to gradually replace some of the motor license money with funding from other sources.

Under Governor Tom Wolf's spending plan for next fiscal year, the motor license number would go down by about $60 million, because he wants to pump in revenues from a proposed $25-per-person fee for municipalities that rely on state police coverage.

That wouldn't totally fix police dependence on road and bridge money, but PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards said it's good progress.

Many lawmakers--particularly Republicans--don't agree with the proposed fee, however.

One of them is GOP Senator Scott Martin of Lancaster County.

"I'm not supportive of this at all and where this could potentially lead to, and it's not the answer to any budgetary woes that are there," he said in budget hearings.

Martin and others raised concerns a $25 fee wouldn't be fair to rural communities and could actually incentivize more municipalities to get rid of their police departments.

Fellow Republican Randy Vulakovich, of Allegheny County, echoed his concerns.

But he noted, there are still no concrete alternatives.

"We have to make that move from the motor license fund into the general fund," he said. "We just scratch our heads at how we're going to do it."

Published in News, State House Sound Bites

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