This letter appeared in the Midland Daily News June 17, 2003.

To the editor:

A recent letter to the editor distorted a Mackinac Center recommendation to save the state $65 million annually by transferring some services from the Michigan State Police to county sheriffs' departments.

The state of Michigan is projecting a record budget deficit of nearly $2 billion, which is more than 20 percent of the most discretionary part of the budget. Gov. Granholm has pledged to balance the budget without increasing taxes. That suggests the state must eliminate unnecessary spending, and reduce other spending where possible. Mackinac Center analysts proposed more than 200 recommendations worth more than $3 billion to solve the overspending problem.

One idea gaining support would save $65 million on traffic safety enforcement without reducing road patrol quality or the number of officers on road patrol. Responsibility for road patrols would be transferred from the state police to county sheriffs. State police could maintain oversight of training and standards.

Why would this save money? A state trooper costs the state about $90,000 in annual payroll costs, while sheriffs' deputies average less than $70,000.

Police protection is one of the most valued government functions. It makes sense to stop spending costly state police resources on functions local agencies are eminently capable of performing for much less money, such as writing traffic tickets. State police attention could be more fruitfully focused elsewhere, such as on homeland security issues.

Most news coverage on our state police proposal has been accurate. Two of Michigan's largest newspapers, the Detroit News and the Oakland Press, have praised the idea. The recommendation is described in detail on our website, www.mackinac.org. With so much information easily available, one wonders why a letter writer would misrepresent our plan, distort its effect, and descend to insults and name-calling.

Independent research into government activity and policy, like that provided by the nonpartisan Mackinac Center for Public Policy, is needed precisely because government agencies themselves are not always forthcoming with ideas to trim their own budgets, even in tough economic times like these.

JOSEPH G. LEHMAN
executive vice president
Mackinac Center
for Public Policy