PennDOT wants to transfer Pa. police funding out of transportation budget
March 1, 2016 12:04 AM
This year, $755 million from the Motor License Fund will go to the Pennsylvania State Police to pay for troopers to patrol state roads.
PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards told the committee she is working with State Police Commissioner Tyree Blocker to identify other sustainable sources of funding for the agency
By Ed Blazina / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the Legislature and Pennsylvania State Police are working to find another source of police funding so PennDOT can use most of the money in the Motor License Fund to take care of roads and bridges.
If they are successful, the move could mean as much as $9 billion in additional transportation money over a 12-year period.
PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards outlined the possibilities Tuesday during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing. Committee members generally supported the concept, but they said they didn’t know yet where else to get the money for state police.
This year, $755 million from the Motor License Fund goes to state police to pay for the troopers to patrol state roads. That amount, about 75 percent of the state police budget, is expected to increase to as much as $950 million by the end of the decade.
Ms. Richards told the committee she is working with State Police Commissioner Tyree Blocker to identify other sustainable sources of funding for the agency. The Motor License Fund includes money from the state gasoline tax as well as driver’s license and vehicle registration fees, generating about $2.8 billion this year.
The amount of that money for roads and bridges could be increased substantially, Ms. Richards said, by eliminating or capping the amount that goes to state police. Based on PennDOT’s 12-year funding cycles, capping the state police share at $300 million a year would generate $9 billion; $6.7 billion if the cap was $500 million; and if the cap was dropped in phases from $755 million next year to $625 million the second year and $500 million the third year, the amount for roads and bridges would go up by $6 billion over 12 years.
“We need to find funding [state police] can depend on,” she said. “[A funding change] would allow us to increase the level of our maintenance, which has been flat for several years.
“It would also allow us to move forward many of the large projects that we haven’t been able to fund.”
Ms. Richards said the money diverted to state police limits the improvements PennDOT can make under the Act 89 transportation bill passed in 2013. The agency expects to increase the number of projects it performs this year from 600 to 700.
“If we could solve this state police issue, we could do a lot more,” she said.
The state House and Senate Transportation committees have held preliminary discussions about the issue. Matt Moyer, director of communications for Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne, said he doesn’t expect a major change this budget season.
“It’s something that’s looked at as a long-range situation,” he said. ”It would be a very large conversation about where the funding [for state police] would come from.”
Ed Blazina: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1470.
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