Paying for police: A bill would force towns to forfeit state road dollars

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It's an idea that's gaining traction -- making every municipality bear the cost of police service.

To the 79 percent of Pennsylvanians whose boroughs, towns and cities already pay for local patrols, this is nothing new. Each year's budget has a line item for police that is covered by local taxpayers.

But in too many places state troopers provide the only police protection, without the local community being billed by the Pennsylvania State Police. It's not fair to people in the rest of the state, who pick up the tab twice -- for their own local officers and for the troopers who patrol locally elsewhere.

Rep. Michael Sturla, a Democrat from Lancaster County, wants to put an end to that and, after considering different ways to make municipalities pay for state police, he has introduced House Bill 1143.

The legislation would require the state to calculate the cost of trooper patrols in each municipality. That amount would then be subtracted from the state liquid fuels tax money owed to the community, which is used to fix roads and bridges. Mr. Sturla says the state would recover $200 million the first year under the law's phase-in and eventually $450 million in year five. That's a big chunk toward the $563 million a year he says Pennsylvania spends to provide police patrols in places that don't pay for their own protection.

HB 1143 is only the latest sensible proposal for how to stop the freeloading. Other plans could fix it as well.

Rep. Sturla has been trying to solve this problem for more than a decade, and his efforts deserve support from Democrats and Republicans alike. After all, no one likes a moocher.

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