Published: Wednesday, December 28, 2011
By STACY BROWN
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania State Police troopers may have several attributes in common with the U.S. Marines.
Disciplined in manner, a love of service and neatly trimmed hair.
However, the state troopers don’t want to be identified with the Marines’ slogan: The few. The proud.
To be sure, troopers are proud, but they don’t want their ranks chopped down to just a few.
But that reduction is possible. Gov. Tom Corbett said extensive spending cuts and a zero-growth budget are needed in 2012, because the state is facing a $500 million budget deficit this fiscal year and as much as $750 million next year.
The Corbett administration declined to confirm any layoffs in the state police ranks, but the union representing the state police said the administration has put it on notice.
“We are looking at 400 to 500 troopers being laid off,” said Bruce Edwards, president of the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, which represents the state’s 4,400 troopers.
Edwards added that state police is expecting other hits to its staffing because of Corbett’s budget. He said Corbett would:
n Close five unidentified state police barracks or stations;
n Eliminate the State Police Academy Cadet classes, which typically graduate 50 new troopers per class, for the next 18 months.
In addition, more than 30 percent of state police force, or 1,500 officers, are eligible for retirement in the next five years, with at least 150 troopers retiring each year.
“There is no other way to put it except that the layoffs are going to happen,” Edwards said. “I expect that 1,000 of those eligible for retirement will be going out, so what we will have is a situation where there will be layoffs, no new cadet classes and retirements.”
State police spokesman Sgt. Anthony Manetta declined to comment.
Corbett and his administration would not comment on whether any vacated positions would remain funded going forward, but state Budget Secretary Charles Zogby said public safety spending needs to be cut.
“We need to bring the public safety budget in line to what Pennsylvania can afford,” Zogby said.
Pennsylvania State Police receive money from the general and motor license funds. The 2011-2012 general fund appropriation is $185.6 million and the motor license fund appropriation is $565.1 million.
Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said the governor is looking to avoid a “worst case scenario.”
“All that happened there is they are planning for the worst-case scenario in terms of if revenues don’t come in,” Harley said. “It’s just planning for a worst case scenario, but we don’t anticipate that will be the case.”
When pressed further on potential layoffs, Harley said, “It’s too early to tell.”
Senate Law and Justice Committee Chairman John Pippy, R-Allegheny, expressed “deep concern” about potential layoffs and said public safety cuts are always problematic.
“We are aware of the (potential) layoffs and we plan to meet with the governor soon about this,” Pippy said. “Hopefully, we can resolve the situation without layoffs.”
Layoffs would hurt communities, said state Sen. James Brewster, D-Allegheny.
“Reducing the state police complement by this many troopers would be potentially devastating to law enforcement and unconscionable to many communities that rely on the state police for protection,” he said.
Not only do state troopers patrol all state and federal highways, they are the primary, sometimes lone, law enforcement presence in more than half of Pennsylvania’s 2,565 municipalities and a large portion of rural areas.
Brewster said he also is concerned about eliminating cadet classes because of Corbett’s zero-growth budget. Cadet classes train new troopers who would cover personnel turnover, he said.
“As a former mayor of a struggling city who has experience dealing with extreme fiscal issues, I know that the last thing that should be contemplated is cutting police protection,” Brewster said.