State police to draw less from highway fund, says PA Rep. Brown

Milford. Motor License Fund, which collects gas taxes and licensing fees, is under pressure to support both road repair and highway safety, at a time when nearly half of the state's municipalities depend solely on the state police, and thousands of bridges are structurally deficient.

13 Aug 2019 | 01:09

PA Rep. Rosemary Brown (R-East Stroudsburg) says she's received many complaints that needed work on roads and bridges has been compromised by diversions of funding to the Pennsylvania State Police.

In response, she said, the General Assembly has limited allocations from the Motor License Fund -- created to collect gas taxes and licensing fees to fund road work and highway safety -- to the state police to the amount transferred in 2016-17, or less. Amounts will be reduced each year until 2027-28, when the allocation will be limited to 60 percent of the amount appropriated in 2016-17.

"There is a tremendous amount of road work that needs to be accomplished in Monroe and Pike counties," she said. "However, we are moving forward. Please remember that Pennsylvania has the fourth largest roadway system in the country. With 40,000 miles of state roadways and 25,000 state-owned bridges – the third largest number of bridges in the country – the maintenance is constant, expensive and fierce."

She said some projects lost funding because extreme weather across Pennsylvania over the past year. Money from the Motor License Fund was used for flooding remediation, she said.

Lawmakers are working with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to prioritize projects, she said. Any growth in the state police budget will be taken from the general fund, with money freed up from the Motor License Fund to be used for roads and bridges.

"It is very important to understand the Pennsylvania State Police has received funding from the Motor License Fund for more than 50 years because it is a traffic and safety enforcement agency on over 60 percent of all highway miles in Pennsylvania," Brown said.

Under the state Constitution, proceeds from the Motor License Fund are to be used solely for the construction, reconstruction, maintenance, and repair of and safety on public highways and bridges.

PA Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said in April that PennDOT could be much further along in repairing highways and bridges, were it not for the transfer of $4.25 billion from the Motor License Fund to the state police since 2012-13.

“More than 2,800 state-maintained bridges across Pennsylvania are structurally deficient, and our bridges average over 50 years in age – beyond what they were designed to last,” DePasquale said. “That $4.25 billion could have cut that list in half, and if PennDOT could use all of the gas tax money for roads and bridges, we could get that number to zero in about 5 years."

DePasquale said 57.6 cents of state tax is added to each gallon of gas sold in Pennsylvania. That means $5.76 in state tax is added to the cost of every 10 gallons put in the tank.

“Pennsylvanians are frustrated that our roads and bridges still need so much help at the same time we are paying the highest gas tax in the United States," he said.

In 2016, the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors, a trade association whose members include contractors, engineers, and suppliers, pointed out that the Motor License Fund supplied 65 percent of the state police budget that year.

"The state police performs a variety of other law enforcement services having nothing to do with patrolling highways," the association said in a press release. "We don't believe 65 percent of state police resources are devoted to patrolling highways, although no one knows definitively what that proportion might be."

The association noted that, to save money, nearly half of Pennsylvania's 2,561 municipalities have no police coverage other than from the state police.

Brown said that in the final 2019-20 state budget, lawmakers increased funding for the state police by $62 million, or 20 percent, while decreasing the Motor License Fund portion by $32 million, or 4 percent, compared to last year. The budget dedicates an additional $9.7 million for three new Pennsylvania State Police cadet classes, she said.

Below is a list of roadwork in Pike County that PA Rep. Rosemary Brown's office has received inquiries on over the last several weeks:
Route 739: Multiple patching and roadwork currently occurring
State Route 2001: Betterment project and paving continuing on Section 2
Route 447: Patching at Pike County line
Route 191: Patching Sept.-Oct. 2019
"There is a tremendous amount of road work that needs to be accomplished in Monroe and Pike counties. The maintenance is constant, expensive and fierce." -- PA Rep. Rosemary Brown