Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pennsylvania GOP’s Budget Cuts Mean Police Response To 911 Calls Could Take Days

By Marie Diamond/Think Progress

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) has consistently advocated for steep budget cuts that compromise public safety and essential government services. For instance, he signed into law a budget that slashed education funding by $900 million. Instead of lawnmowers, one school district had to resort to using sheep to cut grass.
Now, The Patriot-News reports that the state’s proposed budget cuts could force the Pennsylvania State Police to layoff 500 state troopers. As a result, Pennsylvanians who call 911 for emergency assistance may have to wait daysbefore the police can respond:
Imagine calling 911 for the Pennsylvania State Police and not seeing a trooper for hours, even days.
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 provides full- or part-time police service to two-thirds of the state’s municipalities and is relied upon by virtually all police departments to provide specialized services such as DNA, drug and ballistics testing.
This likely budget scenario will require the state police to close five barracks, freeze civilian hiring, and eliminate cadet academy classes until at least July 2013. The police will also be hard-pressed to replace the 150 troopers who typically retire each year, as well as the 1,500 troopers who will become eligible for retirement in the next five years.
Pennsylvania State Troopers Association president Bruce Edwards said, “I don’t want to sugarcoat it. That’s what is going to happen.” Edwards says Pennsylvania could have a public safety disaster on its hands.
Corbett could have avoided making many of these damaging cuts by simply ending a special interest tax break for corporations and natural gas companies. Of the top 15 gas producing states, Pennsylvania is the only one that doesn’t tax companies that use fracking to extract natural gas. The tax could give the state $400 million annually. But the governor, who received more than $835,000 from oil and natural gas companies during his campaign, has only offered to support a completely inadequate one-time fee, proving his loyalty to corporate profits over public safety.
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