Address trooper shortage

There are about 500 trooper vacancies within the Pennsylvania State Police, and Gov. Tom Wolf is a big part of the reason why that situation exists.

He continues to reject filling all of the vacancies, although he reportedly has authorized hirings for 200 of them.

But Wolf isn’t the only one who can be adjudged as culprit in the state police staffing crunch. The Legislature is as much — if not more — responsible for the scenario of shorthandedness that limits the work and visibility of the statewide law-enforcement department.

The governor can’t push ahead if there isn’t the money available to do so, and the Legislature, for longer than Wolf has been in office, has been able to muster neither the ability nor courage to plant the necessary “seeds” for sufficient recurring revenue to fund day-to-day needs and, beyond that, needs such as what the state police demonstrate.

Already three months into the 2017-18 state fiscal year, the Legislature remains deadlocked regarding its responsibility to fully fund this year’s budget that calls for $32 billion in spending.

Actually, the Legislature never tied up all of the funding “loose ends” that were necessary for keeping the 2016-17 budget out of the red.

Last year’s budget failures and the current funding-action stalemate, coupled with Harrisburg’s long-running penchant for spending more money than it’s taking in, show why Pennsylvania has a $2 billion-plus fiscal shortfall that conceivably could become much larger if lawmakers continue making inadequate decisions and choices.

All considered, don’t look for full state police staffing anytime soon, especially since the state government’s budget-preparation errors are being tolerated by state residents strongly opposed to any tax increases.

Nevertheless, some of those same people who oppose paying any more in taxes or fees aren’t hesitant to express concern about what they perceive as inadequate state police patrols in their areas.

The way Pennsylvania state government currently is operating wasn’t the central topic at a meeting held in Antis Township on Sept. 7, but the reasons for sometimes-anemic state police presence in the municipality did take center stage, with state police Sgt. Zigmund P. Jendrzejewski present for the discussion.

Jendrzejewski said only one trooper is assigned to Antis Township and, in addition to that municipality, that trooper also is assigned to patrol neighboring Snyder and Tyrone townships.

“The long and short of it is we are spread pretty thin,” Jendrzejewski was quoted as saying in a Mirror article published Sept. 10.

Jendrzejewski placed the blame for the staffing problems mostly on the governor and, indeed, the governor must shoulder an ample portion of the blame. However, the sergeant should have stacked appropriate blame on the state House and Senate, as well.

The state police and those whom they serve are being victimized by both the executive and legislative branches of the state government, and more state residents should be recognizing and acknowledging that fact.

State Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Allegheny, a former police officer, hopes that once the current budget mess is resolved, the Legislature will resume work toward allowing municipal police to use radar for speed enforcement.

But as appropriate as Vulakovich’s effort is — fears about it pale against the potential benefits — filling more state police vacancies must be regarded as the higher priority.

Unfortunately, pessimism regarding that outcome can’t be regarded as lacking sound basis.