A bill that clears the way for state trooper pay raises was approved, 94-0, Tuesday by the state House of Representatives and is headed to the governor.
“The unanimous vote today speaks volumes to the needs of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, and I thank the members of the House of Representatives for their support,” Michael Thompson, commissioner for the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, said Tuesday. “The department has simply reached the point where we must address the compensation of our troopers in order to attract, and most importantly, retain qualified law enforcement professionals to protect the public.”
Gov. Mary Fallin included $5 million for trooper raises in her executive budget but won’t comment on the bill that passed Tuesday until she and her staff have an opportunity to review it, said Michael McNutt, the governor’s press secretary.
House Appropriations Chairman Scott Martin said the exact percentage pay increase for troopers has not yet been negotiated by the governor and legislative leaders, but he expects the raises to be substantial.
Raises as high as 22 percent have been mentioned in the past, but Martin said it is unclear whether enough money will be available to grant raises that high.
Technically, the bill that passed Tuesday just removes specific trooper salary schedules from state law and calls for salaries to be established that conform to guidelines in a 2013 Oklahoma state employee remuneration study.
“Currently, the OHP ranks 25th among state law enforcement agencies in starting salaries, and our training academies do not produce enough troopers to offset those lost to retirement and/or higher salaried jobs with other law enforcement agencies or the private sector,” said Keith Barenberg, a state trooper and president of the Oklahoma State Troopers Association.
“I appreciate all members of the Legislature for their support and look forward to the governor signing the bill. Doing so will be a tremendous boost to troopers and the general public.”
Martin said House members are hopeful the bill they passed Tuesday will be followed by another bill that would be used to establish a five-year plan for increasing salaries of many other state employees.
Lawmakers would like to be able to increase pay of Department of Corrections employees and some Department of Human Services employees this year, along with troopers, Martin said.