Bills calling for raises for Oklahoma troopers, correctional officers advance

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: February 22, 2013

A 16 percent pay raise for state troopers and a measure that would increase the starting pay for correctional officers and provide a 5 percent increase for other officers and state Corrections Department workers won unanimous approval Thursday from a legislative panel.

The two bills, which have a total price tag of nearly $20 million, now advance to the House of Representatives Appropriations and Budget Committee.

Troopers, who haven't had a raise in pay since January 2007, now rank 16th among law enforcement agencies in the state, said Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, author of both bills. A trooper's starting pay would increase from $38,000 to $44,194; House Bill 2145 has a price tag of $7.3 million.

Starting pay for troopers entering the patrol's training academy would be $38,602 yearly, up from $33,192, if the bill becomes law.

“We obviously want the cream of the crop to apply for the academy,” Hickman said.

HB 2146 calls for increasing the starting pay for correctional officers from $11.83 per hour to $14 per hour. All other employees would receive a 5 percent pay increase. It would cost $12.2 million.

Each bill received a 13-0 vote from the House budget subcommittee on public safety.

“It's not only a reasonable request, I think it's a critical request,” said Hickman, the subcommittee chairman. “If we don't address these two specific areas of public safety, we're literally putting these state employees in life-and-death situations.”

Gov. Mary Fallin did not include raises for troopers or correctional officers in her nearly $7 billion budget proposal to lawmakers last month. Lawmakers will have an additional $34 million to appropriate this year, based on the final budget estimate approved this week by a state board.

If the bills win legislative approval and are signed into law, the raises would take effect July 1, the start of the 2014 fiscal year.

Salaries rank low

Hickman said higher pay for correctional officers is needed to combat higher wages and better hours offered by private employers. Only 62 percent of the Corrections Department's 5,800 authorized correctional officer positions are filled.

Continue reading this story on the...