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Editorial: Trooper pay raise not the only one that's needed
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Editorial: Trooper pay raise not the only one that's needed

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The state House of Representatives has approved a state trooper pay raise that could bump Oklahoma Highway Patrol pay as much as 14 percent.

The measure previously was approved by the state Senate, so it goes to Gov. Mary Fallin, who previously has endorsed trooper raises. So, unless there's some unexpected development, this one seems like a done deal — as it should be.

Troopers put their lives on the line on a daily basis and haven't had a raise in eight years. The state's entry-level OHP pay is below that of all the surrounding states except New Mexico, and 25 other law enforcement agencies in the state pay better than the Department of Public Safety.

State troopers should be among the state's law enforcement elite, not a recruiting ground for other police agencies looking to hire well-trained, highly qualified, underpaid officers.

The Legislature has done the right thing in raising highway patrol pay to conform with a state employee compensation study conducted at Fallin's suggestion last year.

But the job is not done. Other key state-funded jobs still are waiting for long overdue pay raises.

Teachers also have gone years without state-funded pay hikes. The state's best educators are being cherry-picked by school districts in other states.

Prison workers are struggling to make ends meet with the low pay they get. The state corrections system has so many vacancies that officers end up working repeated mandatory overtime shifts, putting the safety of the public, prison workers and inmates in jeopardy.

State workers in general are not being paid close to the levels from the same employee compensation study used to gauge the proper level for the troopers. But the Legislature continues to move toward a state income tax cut that would reduce the amount of money available to do these things that must be done.

Meanwhile, the latest report from the state budget office shows general revenue 9.1 percent below the level needed to meet current budget levels.

It's time for state leaders to take a more realistic look at the state's legitimate needs and rethink the rush toward a tax cut. OHP troopers are a spending priority, but they aren't the only one, and cutting the state's ability to meet those needs only digs the hole deeper and prevents state progress.

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