I sometimes use this weekly column to answer your questions about matters relating to state government or any issue of concern. This week’s question deals with state funding for road and bridge projects.
|By State Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne)
Q: A recent audit of PennDOT found that billions of dollars have been diverted to help fund the state police rather than fix Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure. Is anything being done to change that?
Richard from Shickshinny
A: As you may know, a sizable portion of funding for the Pennsylvania State Police comes from PennDOT’s Motor License Fund.
Pursuant to Article VIII, Section 11 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, all proceeds from license/registration fees and fuel taxes must go toward roads, bridges and for highway safety. Certainly, state police patrols qualify as highway safety. Nevertheless, the Legislature has been working to reduce the amount of funding the state police receive from the Motor License Fund.
PennDOT is currently transferring more than $700 million per year to the state police. A study commissioned by the House Transportation Committee in 2015 estimated the true cost to the state police for patrolling the Commonwealth’s highway system to be $500 million annually. As a result, legislation was enacted to phase back the funding and return it to the Motor License Fund.
An estimated 67% of the municipalities in the Commonwealth rely to some degree on the state police to provide local police support. This coverage comes at no cost to the municipality and is borne by taxpayers statewide, who in many cases support their own local police coverage through local taxes.
Gov. Tom Wolf has included an assessment fee in his 2019-20 budget proposal that ranges from $8 to $166 for every person residing in a municipality without local police coverage to pay for the additional burden placed on the state police to provide full coverage for the municipality. The governor made a similar proposal last year, but it was not included in the final budget.
State police funding is a complicated issue the Legislature has been discussing since the 1990s. In recent years, we have taken the steps necessary to ensure more dollars from the Motor License Fund are used to repair Pennsylvania’s roads and bridges.
If you have a question regarding any state government-related matter, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Representative Tarah Toohil
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office