(The Center Square) – Top officials from the Pennsylvania State Police on Tuesday testified in front of the House Appropriations Committee on officer safety, financial concerns, and firearm background checks.

The hearing was less skeptical of the PSP’s budget and more inquisitive about how more funding from the General Assembly could help law enforcement. One funding boost that was broadly popular was for more personnel to staff the Pennsylvania Instant Check System to avoid delays in required firearm background checks.

Rep. Zachary Mako, R-Northampton, and Rep. James Struzzi, R-Indiana, noted constituent complaints of long waits for background check to clear when it’s expected to take much less time in the Pennsylvania Instant Check System and National Instant Check System.

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“No transactions are completed without PICS approval,” said Lt. Col. Kristal Turner-Childs, deputy commissionof staff for the PSP.

Part of the problem stems from a reliance on a phone system to use PICS instead of using the web system.

“We would love it if more people would utilize [the web program] because that seems to be the more efficient way. When people are utilizing the phone service, people get stuck in a holding pattern. So we recognize that,” Turner-Childs said.

PICS hasn’t had a personnel increase since 1998, Turner-Childs noted. That changed this year, she said, with seven additional staffers, and the PSP is looking to add 32 positions to expedite the process, which will cost about $1.57 million.

A pay raise and Covid vaccination benefit will also increase personnel costs, which is what primarily drives the state police budget.

We need to be responsible moving forward in what we do … I just wish there would’ve ben more honesty.

“There’s a pay raise coming on July 1, 2022 of about 1.75%, and that’s just an increase of roughly $7.5 mil coming out of our budget,” said Col. Robert Evanchick, the PSP commissioner.

With Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s policy that offered state employees extra paid leave for getting vaccinated, about 63% of PSP personnel participated and will add roughly $6.5 million in costs, Evanchick said. Funds to cover those costs will come from the general fund and part of the motor license fund.

Wolf’s budget document holds the PSP budget level for 2022-23 and the four fiscal years thereafter, but Rep. Keith Greiner, R-Lampeter, was skeptical of that being realistic.

“We need to be responsible moving forward in what we do,” Greiner said. “I just wish there would’ve been more honesty.”

Anthony Hennen writes for The Center Square.

This article was reposted with permission from The Center Square.

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