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Politics & Government

It Costs $600M For State Police To Protect Cop-Less Towns. Wolf Says Per-Person Fee Could Help

Gene J. Puskar
Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a $25 per-person fee to residents in municipalities that benefit from full-time state police protection rather than sustaining their own local police forces.

The state police are facing shrinking ranks and a funding shortage as a slew of troopers approach retirement age.

Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed a $25 per-person fee for each of Pennsylvania's 2.5 million residents in nearly 1,300 municipalities that rely on state police coverage instead of a local police force.

State Police Commissioner Tyree Blocker told lawmakers at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Thursday that it currently costs state police about half its $1.2 billion budget, or about $234 per person.

Wolf's proposal is estimated to pump about $63 million into the agency, but it's unclear whether the Republican-controlled Legislature would approve it. 

Blocker said said the agency needs money, and he doesn’t care where it comes from. 

“I have full faith and confidence with Gov. Wolf working in conjunction with the legislature to provide the necessary resources for state police funding,” he said.

He and other ranking troopers took a barrage of questions about their budget for the next fiscal year for more than two hours.

The Senate panel raised several—sometimes conflicting—concerns about the $25 levy. Some said it’s unfair for small communities that already pay taxes that go to police; others argued it might be too good a deal and could prompt more towns to get rid of their own police departments to save money.

Allegheny County Republican Randy Vulakovich said he’s not a fan of the plan, calling it “the wrong approach.”

“Under the circumstances with the budget deficits, we have to be very careful about what we do,” he said.

State police are mostly funded through money constitutionally restricted to highway construction, repair and safety.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.