BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Six months after receiving a sizable raise from lawmakers, Louisiana's state police got a second salary boost this month that, when combined, increased a trooper's pay by 30 percent on average despite continued state budget difficulties.
State senators added the latest $11 million pay hike into Louisiana's budget in the final days of the legislative session, with little public discussion of the add-on even as lawmakers were struggling with ways to close a massive budget shortfall and avoid steep cuts to services.
It came after a $24 million salary increase approved by lawmakers in January.
The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Office noted the raises in a recap of lawmakers' work on the budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, saying the back-to-back pay bumps averaged 30 percent.
Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, said the money was needed to keep trooper pay competitive, noting that 10 other law enforcement units in Louisiana paid higher entry-level salaries before the increases.
Before January, the pay grid for troopers — which gives the officers graduated pay increases over 22 years — hadn't been adjusted since 2002, and Edmonson said the increases will help attract well-trained, ethical people who will stay in the jobs.
"I believe to get that you have to pay them a respectable wage. And I think this gets us there," he said Friday. "I'm very comfortable with what those salaries are."
The individual size of the combined pay raises varies depending on a trooper's rank and years of experience.
Starting salary for a state police cadet grew from $35,610 last year to $46,610 in the current fiscal year, a 31 percent increase. A sergeant with five years of experience saw his salary grow 24 percent, or $12,318. A rank-and-file trooper with 10 years of experience got a 28 percent boost of $14,393.
On the highest end, a state police major — who oversees about 200 troopers across 20 to 25 parishes — with at least 22 years of experience received a 50 percent pay raise, totaling $46,895 and bringing the salary to $140,890.
Gov. Bobby Jindal backed the pay hike. His spokesman Mike Reed described the effort in a statement as ensuring "the agency can continue to retain and recruit troopers."
The pay increases come as the state continues to grapple with repeated budget shortfalls and more gaps are forecast.
Edmonson noted that none of the pay raise money came from the state general fund.
"It's a tough, difficult time. But I didn't ask them to give us existing dollars," he said.
Dollars for the salary boost approved in January came from a fee increase on uninsured motorists that lawmakers passed last year. Money for the most recent raise comes from enhanced collection efforts of state Office of Motor Vehicle debt.
In January, several lawmakers raised concerns about the size of the pay raise that ultimately was approved by the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget and scaled it back. The second salary hike, added to the budget in an amendment by Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, added the rest of the money not backed by lawmakers six months ago.
Adley described it to senators as a move that would "honor the agreement that we made for the pay raise."
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin opposed the raise in January, worrying the state couldn't afford the increase. Fannin, R-Jonesboro, disagreed with how the second pay raise was added, without a committee discussion.
"I think this sidesteps the process in the way where you can have debate about the fairness," Fannin said.
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Posted on Wed, July 22, 2015
by MELINDA DESLATTE Associated Press