Continuing on with today's theme of police layoffs, comes a story from across the river from Camden, New Jersey, about potential upcoming layoffs of state troopers in Pennsylvania:
Imagine calling 911 for the Pennsylvania State Police and not seeing a trooper for hours, even days.The "first layoffs is state police history?" Boy, it sure sounds like the economy of the Keystone State is "recovering," all right. So, just how bad a fiscal mess is Pennsylvania in?
It’s a scenario that state lawmakers and troopers foresee if the department’s budget is cut 5 percent next year, forcing what would be the first layoffs in the state police history.
An internal department document obtained by The Patriot-News forecasts the potential for 400 to 500 trooper layoffs under a budget proposal to trim the department’s spending. That’s approximately 10 percent of the nearly 4,400 troopers currently employed by the department. The cuts would also force stations around the state to close.
The department developed the two budget scenarios at the request of Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration. This came after the department submitted a 2012-13 budget request seeking a $33.6 million increase over the current budget.Of course, the whiners, Republicans as usual, were out in full force:
With state tax collections already lagging $345 million below estimate — and fearing that deficit could grow to as much as $1 billion by June 30 — Corbett’s press secretary, Kevin Harley, said the governor wants departments to be prepared for a worst-case scenario.
Rep. Ron Marsico, R-Lower Paxton Twp., doesn’t need any prodding. A strong supporter of the state police, Marsico, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, vowed to fight for adequate money for the department.Because the Republican party is always against government spending except that spending which benefits them. But I will give credit to Senate Law and Justice Committee Chairman John Pippy for proposing a new tax levy on the fracking industry since they are the ones driving the need for increased policing. Usually, such thing is considered a sacrilege by that party.
“I’m absolutely shocked the administration would not look at cutting other programs first. Obviously, we need to fund our state police,” he said. “Less police equals more crime. No questions about that.”
Rep. Mark Keller, R-New Bloomfield, also has pledged to keep a close eye on this area of next year’s budget as the final budget takes shape.
For the vast majority of communities in Perry and Franklin counties that he represents, the state police is the only game in town. So any reduction in state police staffing or closing of barracks would undoubtedly result in longer response time.
“We’re rural communities. The communities themselves cannot afford their own police department,” he said. “This is going to be my constituents that are going to have a concern, which I do too.”
That sentiment carried over to the Senate, where Senate Law and Justice Committee Chairman John Pippy, R-Allegheny County, sees the department is already stretched thin. Its current complement is down nearly 300 troopers from the number of troopers it is authorized to have. That shortage is only compounded by the postponement of cadet classes and the impending retirements.
“I think, hopefully, we will be able to find a solution in working with the governor, but it is something of great concern,” Pippy said.
He said the state police are the primary law enforcement provider in the Marcellus shale region, which the troopers association indicates has resulted in an uptick in calls for police services since natural gas drilling activity has grown.
He said that should be considered in any potential gas drilling impact fee legislation that the Legislature is considering.