Rep. Sturla takes aim at transportation debate
State Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster County, has come up with a plan that could free up more than $560 million per year for road and bridge projects without raising commonwealth taxes.
A critic of Gov. Tom Corbett's transportation funding proposal — a five-year $1.8 billion plan that he says is not nearly enough — Sturla is planning to introduce legislation that would rectify inequities between municipalites that operate a local police department and those that rely solely on the Pennsylvania State Police for their coverage.
"There is no question that all Pennsylvania residents help to fund the PSP through the taxes they pay, but it is also true that 79 percent of the state's population is paying for both PSP patrols and local police services," Sturla said in a memo he is circulating that seeks co-sponsors of the pending bill. "In other words, 21 percent of the population is receiving 100 percent of the police service, but only paying 21 percent of the costs."
His proposals would amend the Liquid Fuels Tax Municipal Allocation Law by allowing the state police commissioner to determine the per capita cost of patrolling those municipalities without a local police department, multiplying that by their population and then reducing the municipality's share of the Motor License Fund.
"We cannot continue to transfer a larger portion of the MLF each year so the PSP can offer police services to those municipalities that have decided not to operate their own local police department, while a majority of our constituents pay twice," said Sturla, chairman of the House Democratic Policy Committee.
For 2013-14, Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed a transfer of $619 million from the MLF to the PSP, according to the administration's plan. About $563.4 million of that is budgeted for general government operations.
"As you can see, an enormous amount of tax dollars are transferred to the PSP and subsequently used to patrol municipalities that do not have their own local police department," Sturla said in the memo.
He said he is hopeful the proposal will be discussed as part of the transportation funding debate.
Sturla also said he is concerned that transportation will be left behind other issues, such as liquor store privatization, which means a funding package might not get done until the budget is done this summer.
"We will lose another construction season," he said, already critical of the governor's decision to put off transportation last year. "He said we would get (a plan) last year. And now he finally does it with the budget."