rely on full- or part-time state police coverage, according to State Police Director of Communications Ryan Tarkowski. Of those, 1,297 rely on full-time coverage and 414 rely on parttime coverage, he said.
A state police 2016-2018 strategic plan indicates troopers provide full-time or part-time police service to approximately 66 percent of the state’s municipalities, 60 percent of the roadways, 82 percent of the total land area, and 26 percent of the total population.
And that number is ever growing. At the end of 2017, 1,702 municipalities relied on state police. At the end of 2016, it was 1,691, and at the end of 2015, it was 1,685, according to Tarkowski.
Those relying solely on state police locally are Chadds Ford, Chester Heights, Concord, Edgmont, Middletown, Rose Valley and Thornbury.
Rose Valley, with a population of just 949 by 2017 census estimates, would pay $7,592 at the lowest end of the scale under Wolf’s proposal. Concord, with 17,783 residents, would pay more than $2.5 million and Middletown, with 15,965, would pay nearly $2 million.
Two state representatives whose districts cover the bulk of those areas – Steve Barrar, R-160 of Upper Chichester and Chris Quinn, R-168 of Middletown – said Friday that they don’t think much of the new plan.
“I’m not on board with it,” said Quinn. “We keep coming up with new ideas and find new ways to take more of people’s hardearned money, and I struggle with it. But if we are going to implement this type (of fee) the only way I would support it is if it’s fair and equal, and it’s equal across Pennsylvania.”
“That’s one of those proposals that comes up every single year,” said Barrar. “They repackage it, they reformulate it, and it still has gone nowhere. My main concern is that if the money is going to be collected in the name of the state police, it’s got to go to the state police.”
Quinn, who sits on sits on the House Appropriations Committee, said he would not have a comment on the specifics of Wolf’s plan or alternatives until he gets a chance to “look under the hood” of the proposed budget during hearings over the next few weeks, but would rather focus on a shale gas tax ahead of any other.
“There are a lot of good ideas people have on how we can improve, but at the end of the day, the first tax that I personally would like to see implemented would be on shale,” he said. “We have that resource, and when I look at our area, we bear all the risk and I see very little reward for the risk we’re bearing.”
Barrar said he wasn’t against Wolf’s proposal outright, but thought it would need some component that provided a dedicated trooper presence to those areas without their own departments to be palatable. He also was not keen on how municipalities would have to absorb the cost, which would likely trickle down to additional taxes on residents.
“The governor said he was not proposing any new taxes, when in reality he is proposing new taxes,” said Barrar. “This is basically a tax on the people in these townships.”
Wolf spokesman J.J. Abbott said the plan would raise an expected $103.9 million that would go toward meeting the general fund obligation to pay for state police, but the proposed per-capita fee would still be less than municipalities pay for their own police forces.
“Eighty percent of the population pays for a local police force,” he said. “The current system is not sustainable given the extra demand this places on the state police.”
But Middletown Council Chairman Mark Kirchgasser said that cost would still have to be passed on “dollar for dollar” to residents.
“We have a static set of reserves, they don’t replenish,” he said. “We couldn’t even cover it for one year.”
Kirchgasser said he does not think putting a dollar figure on populations is entirely fair to the process either. He questioned how one could value a person in a small community at $8 and another in a larger community at $166.
Kirchagasser said there have not been any recent cost/benefit studies done on implementing Middletown’s own police force, though council does have an understanding of the costs associated with such an endeavor. He added that Middletown is very happy with the “tremendous service” it receives from state police.
“We will continue to monitor this thing and when something ultimately plays out, we’ll have to have a response in place,” he said. “So we’ll just continue to wait and see what happens.”
Wolf has outlined a $1.3 billion budget for state police in the 2019-20 fiscal year beginning July 1, a 3-percent increase over 2018-19. Approximately $738 million of that is expected to come from the Motor License Fund.
The fund was a point of contention in recent years, as it is supposed to go toward things like bridge and road repairs. But administrations going back nearly two decades have steadily increased fund contributions to state police funding in the name of “highway safety.”
By 2016-17, the MLF appropriation to state police was $802 million, accounting for 65 percent of the state police budget. But amendments to the fiscal code as part of that budget process required a gradual draw-down on state police funds coming from the fund, which will cap at $500 million by 2027.