Is Rendell Lying About State Police Layoffs?

Gov. Rendell has been quoted on numerous occasions claiming the budget passed by the Pennsylvania Senate last month would result in the layoff of 800 state police.  We pointed out last week that the head of the State Troopers Association called it a scare tactic, but a Senate hearing yesterday with the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) revealed some very interesting details Rendell has omitted.

The Rendell administration claims that a $16 million reduction in General Fund PSP funding — it is actually a $4 million cut from what was spent this year, the $16 million is a reduction from Rendell’s proposed budget — would result in an additional $43 million reduction in funding from the Motor License Fund, because of a 27%/73% split in how PSP is funded.

But as PLS points out on their blog, “that the cut would not be necessary because there is nothing in statute or in the constitution that forces the PSP to cut funds from the Motor License side.”  That is, that ratio is determined by the Rendell Administration.  It is true that the Motor License Fund monies can only be used to fund highway patrols, but there is no reason why there should be any less funding for that purpose.

The full summary from PLS is for subscribers only, but here are some gems:

Chairman Rafferty asked who wrote the testimony. Lt. Col. Kurtz said that the presentation was prepared himself with the PSP Policy Office. Chairman Rafferty questioned who the PSP Policy Office reports to. Lt. Col. Kurtz responded “the Governor’s policy office.”

Chairman Rafferty inquired if PSP and the Governor are preparing for 800 furloughs and asked if PSP has ever furloughed troopers. Lt. Col. Kurtz responded “no” to both questions. Chairman Rafferty indicated that in 2005 the General Assembly and the Governor cut funding from the PSP budget and asked how many layoffs that resulted in. “None,” Lt. Col. Kurtz said. …

Chairman Rafferty said the hearing today established that there is no statutory or constitutional requirement that provides for the 27/73 split in funding and asked if Lt. Col. Kurtz agrees with the Governor when he said that sex offenders will be running rampant on the street. Lt. Col. Kurtz said the statements are sensationalizing the issue for the budget negotiations between the Governor’s office and the Senate.

Capitolwire (also a subscription service) writes this about the hearing:

“There is no statutory requirement” that the 73-27 ratio be observed, he [Kurtz] said, later adding: “The percentages aren’t written in law.”

[Mark] Infanti [of State Police] testified that Rendell’s proposed $5 million in cuts for next year could be absorbed without layoffs or cuts that would affect tracking sex offenders, although they meant no new cadet class could be scheduled to replace the 150 or so expected retirees. But the additional $11 million in cuts proposed by the Senate would require layoffs, Infanti said.

Committee Chairman John Rafferty, R-Montgomery, asked Kurtz where “the magic line” is between Rendell’s $5 million in cuts and the Senate’s total of $16 million.

“At what point do budget cuts require layoffs or cuts in valuable programs like tracking sex offenders?” Rafferty asked.

Kurtz replied: “I can’t answer that.”

Rafferty also played a video clip of an interview Gov. Ed Rendell gave to WITF-TV’s “Smart Talk” in which Rendell said the Senate-GOP-proposed cuts would hamper the computerized tracking of sex offenders. …

Responding to Rafferty expressing outrage at the governor’s comments, Kurtz said: “That is sensationalizing for both the governor’s office and the Senate. Those are all political statements that are being made for a purpose.”