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24/7 state police can become reality

by: Contributed photo, Rep. Patti Smith

During the 2006 campaign, Republicans and Democrats expressed a commitment to providing around-the-clock Oregon State Police coverage on our highways. Yet the budget released by top budget-writers does not provide adequate funding to accomplish this goal.

Fortunately, there is a bill to provide dedicated funding for the Oregon State Police. I have co-sponsored House Bill 3535 to permanently dedicate 1 percent of general fund revenue dollars ($127 million) to a special fund for OSP's Patrol Division. It ensures round-the-clock coverage by putting 140 troopers back on the road to cover major highways, allows for future growth and does not raise taxes.

HB 3535 is a product of House and Senate Republicans, but it has earned the support of enough Democratic co-sponsors to reach the governor's desk. It has also earned the support of the Oregon State Police Officers' Association, the troopers' union. HB 3535 continues to earn support because it's a good solution to a long-term problem.

By dedicating 1 percent of general fund revenue to the Oregon State Police Patrol Division Fund, the Legislature can begin to restore the trooper positions that have been cut over the past two decades. In addition to funding 140 new troopers, HB 3535 will fund additional dispatch services to support these new troopers and will support other pressing patrol division needs.

Some say OSP needs dedicated revenue from a new tax or a tax increase. With state revenues up 20 percent over the last biennium, Oregonians expect their government to fund OSP within available means. HB 3535 prioritizes our state spending and eliminates the need for new taxes.

HB 3535 requires majority votes in the House and Senate to divert revenue from the patrol division. This is a dramatic departure from the past, when OSP was continually de-funded behind closed doors at the state Capitol.

The legislation does not take money away from other programs; instead, it firmly establishes the state police as a top priority for tax dollars. In addition, the dollars are deposited into a secure state account, separate from the general fund. All interest earned on the Patrol Division Fund is dedicated to our troopers. This is truly about making our troopers a top priority, something our district and state need badly.

HB 3535 gives Oregonians 24/7 protection without asking them for more money. It gives the patrol division its first true dedicated funding source in its history and allows the agency to grow as the state grows. The time to act is now.

Patti Smith, R-Corbett, represents Oregon House District 52, which includes the Sandy area.