WILKES-BARRE -- When you go to fill up your car here in the Commonwealth, 50 cents of every gallon is taxed, going to the state. Our state gas tax is the highest in the country, according to the American Petroleum Institute, after lawmakers passed Act 89 in 2013.
The revenue from the gas tax and drivers' fees is used for road and bridge projects, some administrative overhead, as well as to the Pennsylvania State Police. But it turns out, more money is now increasingly going to state police. That's pulling cash away from of road projects, according to PennDOT projections.
The state police budget is taking up so much cash because the need for state police is also increasing. Part of the reason is that the law mandates state police to cover communities that have no local police.
“Over time, it's happened more and more and more and more,” said Trooper Tom Kelly.
Nearly half of all municipalities in Pennsylvania rely on state police, including several counties, like Wyoming and Susquehanna Counties.
“It affects our manpower. Instead of dedicating it to certain areas, we're spread thin, we're all over the place,” Kelly said.
There are wealthier, more populated areas too, like Lower Macungie Township near Allentown, that has never had a local police force, instead relying on state police. Now some lawmakers looking to compel well-off communities to pay for their own law enforcement.
“If you got a community that's capable of, you got to provide your own first responders, your police, your fire,” said Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski of Luzerne County (D).
Rep. Pashinski is now working with a group of lawmakers who plan to reintroduce a bill in January that would compel communities with a large enough population and tax base to pay for their own police.