Funding for the Oregon State Police has been so scarce in recent years that most parts of the state have no troopers on duty during entire eight-hour shifts. The 665 troopers we had in 1979 have fallen to just 285 today.
The state police are struggling because we’ve expanded the scope of government far beyond anything contemplated when our state was formed, and far beyond what is healthy for our citizens. Now, less than two percent of the entire state budget is spent on state troopers.
To insure 24/7 police coverage of at least all our major highways, some legislators propose that we dedicate a fixed percentage of the General Fund to the task. Others want to redirect some state lottery money to fund more troopers.
The state police are arguably the most important core function of state government and therefore should be funded first. But we shouldn’t fund it through the lottery, or through some arbitrary fixed percentage of a fluctuating budget.
Funding police through gambling would make the lottery even more of a moral hazard than it is already. It would add one more advocacy group, police officers, to those who openly or secretly applaud more gambling by our citizens.
Dedicating a set percentage of the budget ignores the reality that proper police funding may require more or less money in any given period.
We should let the State Police make its funding case, and then approve its budget first. Other programs should come second, or third, or perhaps not at all.
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