The Norman Transcript

April 16, 2014

Oklahoma House passes state trooper pay raise bill

By Tim Talley
The Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers could get their first pay raise in seven years under a plan given final legislative approval Tuesday, though it remains unclear whether money will be available in the overall state budget to fund the plan.

The House unanimously approved the measure without debate and sent it to Gov. Mary Fallin. The bill, which was previously approved by the Senate, includes all 101 House members as co-sponsors.

The measure provides a mechanism for an across-the-board pay raise for troopers and is designed to “bring them to more of a reasonable average to other law enforcement officers in the state,” said the bill’s author, Rep. Scott Martin, R-Norman, chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol ranks 25th among state law enforcement agencies in starting salaries, and its training academy is not producing enough troopers to offset those who retire or take higher-paying jobs, said Trooper Keith Barenberg, president of the Oklahoma State Troopers Association.

However, funding for a similar bill never came through last year because of shortfalls in the state budget. The budget — and all the programs it funds — will be determined during negotiations between the House and Senate, which will have to be finalized by the end of May.

The governor has not publicly committed to signing the bill, though Martin said she and the Legislature are committed to funding the pay raises this year.

The measure is based on the recommendations of a study conducted last year on state employee compensation. The analysis found that Oklahoma state trooper salaries were 14 percent below the average salary of troopers in other states. Officials said at the time that low state trooper pay was making it difficult for the agency to recruit and retain the best law enforcement candidates.

The bill removes the salary schedule for the Department of Public Safety, the parent agency of the patrol, from state statutes and provides that the salaries of troopers be set in accordance with the compensation study. The salaries of Capitol Patrol officers and DPS driver’s license examiners and communications personnel also are covered.

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