Virgina State Police Streched Thin-With No End in Sight
Given the current economic climate, it’s no secret that our legislators face tough decisions regarding budgets. The government of the Commonwealth provides a number of important services to residents, and with declining revenues there’s no doubt popular programs and services will continue to be cut.
This weekend, The Virginian-Pilot covered the story of the existing shortage of state troopers. Budget cuts closed all academy classes in 2009, and allowed only one academy class in 2010.
Estimates showed that eliminating academy classes saves Virginia around $250,000 a month. While such savings are always desirable, in the case of the state troopers, we have seen staffing shortages, longer shifts and more hours, and even a loss of morale. Currently, the state police are down 227 positions, and it is expected that the gap will not be filled until 2013.
James Russo, a featured trooper in the story, feels the strain on the force’s morale. Overtime is a big issue due to lack of pay raises. Not only does lack of overtime pay strain a trooper’s work and personal life; it also affects Virginia’s motorists. Understaffed and overworked troopers means faster response times to roadside emergencies. During these heavily traveled summer months, this is definitely not a good thing.
Budget concerns are real, and it’s clear that most, if not all, of Virginia’s agencies are strained during this economic downturn. Legislators have had to make tough choices, balancing competing demands for public safety, social safety net programs, and the general transportation/infrastructure fund.
What is clear is that these issues will not simply just fade away with a growing economy. A stronger economy will certainly help raise revenues and provide additional funding sources, but we need to look towards long term and sustainable solutions. Expanding sources of revenues and more public/private partnerships can help to provide the funding needed to ensure government operations in Virginia are functioning to the fullest degree.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of members of the NDP Steering Committee.