Budget realities make Wolf’s cop tax debate-worthy

Gov. Tom Wolf is proposing a $25 per person tax on municpalities without a police force to raise $63 million in funds for the state police, a plan bound to have its share of critics.

It’s entirely understandable that those who lead municipalities that get their police protection for free from state police would resist any move to change that.

Loyalsock Township, Lycoming County’s second most populous municipality, does not have a police force and has been happy with state police protection for decades.

Bill Burdett, the township’s manager, says Wolf’s proposed fee amounts to double taxation since the township’s residents already pay state taxes to support state police.

That’s true. But so do Williamsport residents, who also pay hefty city taxes in large part for local police protection. So do residents of many of the county’s municipalities with lesser populations.

There also is the practical matter of the state’s revenues, where they go, and where they are intended to go.

State police are taking $800 million out of the state’s Motor License Fund for operations costs. That money is supposed to be going toward funding of bridge and highway repairs and improvements. Those are costs that never recede.

Both Larry Stout, a Clinton Township supervisor, and Mark Murawski, Lycoming County transportation planner, agree on one point – the current arrangement is unsustainable.

The $25 per person fee for police protection in municipalities served solely by state police is at least worth talking about. Leaders in municipalities working under the existing setup should at least suggest alternative funding if they don’t like the proposal.

But claims of double taxation probably ring hollow for the 80 percent of Pennsylvania’s population that pays for local police out of one pocket and state police protection out of the second.