In difficult budget year, Oklahoma Highway Patrol raises need to happen

Oklahoman Published: April 7, 2014

OKLAHOMA lawmakers have $188 million less to allocate this is year, yet state agencies have combined to ask for about $800 million more than they got a year ago. Clearly, difficult decisions are ahead. Most agency directors will be disappointed.

Our hope is that Michael Thompson, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, isn’t one of them.

Thompson oversees the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, whose trooper force is well below what’s needed. The number has the potential to diminish further every year — 210 of the 768 troopers now on the roster are eligible to retire immediately; half of those 210 have more than 25 years with the OHP.

Ideally, 950 troopers would handle the agency’s various responsibilities, which include not just keeping roads safe but lakes as well. OHP has never had that many troopers and likely never will, but the patrol can’t afford to see its numbers recede.

So Thompson is seeking additional funding to provide pay raises to his troops, and he has allies in Gov. Mary Fallin and the Legislature. Fallin’s proposed budget for next fiscal year seeks a 4.5 percent funding increase to DPS for trooper pay. That would equal $9.8 million for a full year (the new fiscal year begins July 1).

House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, has said pay raises for targeted state employees, including Highway Patrol troopers, is a priority for his caucus. And early in the session, the Senate approved a bill to provide troopers with across-the-board raises of 14 percent to 20 percent. All of this is encouraging.

Like many state employees, troopers have gone several years without pay raises. This places the OHP at a distinct competitive disadvantage — 25 other law enforcement entities across the state pay better than the OHP, whose troopers start out at about $33,100 annually. So the idea of someone beginning his or her career at a police department and aspiring to one day join the OHP is often a thing of the past.

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
+ show more

Trending Now


  1. 1
    UNC hires Zac Selmon as Associate Director of Athletics
  2. 2
    Wendy's: Tests build-your-own burger
  3. 3
    Teen arrested for making threats on Facebook
  4. 4
    Blake Griffin replaced by John Wall on US World Cup roster
  5. 5
    Two Texas players under investigation 'immediately eligible'
+ show more