It’s difficult to argue the Pennsylvania State Police is not worth the money state taxpayers spend for the wide-reaching protection.
With reduced numbers and a wide coverage area, the State Police faces increasing challenges of covering areas that do not feature local law enforcement agencies as more municipalities fall under its umbrella.
However, as the state’s infrastructure — from roads to bridges to ports — continues to crumble, the practice of siphoning money out of of the Motor License Fund is a matter of concern.
Monies from the Motor License fund are scheduled for road and bridge repairs, but a significant portion continues to be redirected to fund the State Police.
A recently released study by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee noted that more than $750 million was shifted from the Motor License Fund, about $220 million more than should have been, to cover expenses for the troopers.
So far Pennsylvanians have been willing to pay the additional price at the pump with the expectation that realistic infrastructure improvements are seen. Too many of those dollars, however, aren’t leading to shovels in the ground.
According to the study, if the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation had the extra $220 million, it could have fixed 1,111 miles of road or replaced 138 bridges. It also could have funded about a third of the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway project in one shot.
The amount sent to the State Police is being decreased annually. A bill passed a year ago would annually cut 4 percent from the shift until hitting a $500 million floor in a decade. It’s a move that officials say would boost highway and bridge maintenance by $2.1 billion by 2027.
“If this report is ignored, it’s going to come at a cost,” said Jason Wagner, managing director of the Pennsylvania Highway Information Association.
Balancing the cost between rehabilitating a crumbling infrastructure and appropriately funding levels for a vital service will be key moving forward.
It is however, something that should be a priority for lawmakers because costs for either won’t be reducing any time soon.