Most of Pennsylvania's 2,563 municipalities, many rural with small populations, don't have their own police department -- not even one or two officers to respond to calls, patrol the roads and issue citations -- and don't contract from another local agency.
These townships and boroughs either truly can't afford it, or they don't want to tax their residents to pay for the service.
Instead, state police patrol these areas -- and those municipalities can't or won't pay for that service, either.
Troopers now provide part-time or full-time coverage to nearly 70 percent of the state at no additional charge.
Lawmakers over the years have proposed charging a fee for the service, but the municipalities always balk and the legislation never goes anywhere.
It never seemed fair:
Residents in the 40 percent that do provide police service -- usually a municipality's most expensive budget item -- essentially are subsidizing coverage for municipalities that chose not to. These people pay local taxes to have their own department as well as state taxes and fees taxes to fund the state police.
Although irritating, there doesn't seem to be enough political will to change the situation. Some municipalities will continue to accept for free what other municipalities levy taxes to provide.
It's infuriating, however, that the state is actually paying these communities for keeping their residents safe.
That's basically what's happening.
Currently, municipalities that rely on state police for police protection get half of the revenue from citations issued in their municipality. The other 50 percent goes to the state's motor license fund under the state Department of Transportation.
Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed 2012-13 budget recommends cutting off that revenue and funneling the funds to state police instead.
Even some officials in York County municipalities that rely on state police coverage say that's fair.
"We don't do anything to earn that revenue," A. Carville "Peck" Foster Jr., a Springfield Township supervisor, said. "There's no definitive reason the township should get that money."
Most of the affected municipalities in the county say the revenue amounts to around $10,000 a year -- not an insignificant amount, but not enough to break their budgets if it were cut off.
For the state police, however, it would mean an additional $8 million at a time the state budget is tight. The money would be used to purchase equipment for troopers, including radio equipment and other protective devices.
The governor's recommendation is now in the hands of the General Assembly, which would have to pass legislation to put the altered fine-sharing in place.
We urge lawmakers to pass such a bill.
It's only fair.
More than fair, really.