Editorial: Trooper raises not excessive

Posted Friday, Jun. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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At a time when many private-sector employees are having their wages cut or frozen because of tight corporate budgets, the thought of any public employee getting a 20 percent raise is rather surprising, if not shocking.

That is, until you realize that the pay increase is justified and perhaps long overdue.

While $100 million in pay hikes for one group of state employees is a large sum, the Texas Department of Public Safety troopers had fallen so far behind police officers in big cities that the attrition rate was skyrocketing, the Austin American-Statesman reported this past week.

For example, the maximum annual salary for a DPS trooper with 20 years experience is $61,793, compared with $95,464 for a police officer or detective in Austin and $85,233 for the same positions in Fort Worth, the paper reported.

There are hundreds of vacancies in the DPS ranks, largely attributed to the pay discrepancies.

The Legislature, after ignoring the problem for years, finally addressed it in the recently passed state budget by including salary increases averaging 20 percent over two years for about 4,400 members of the department.

Most state employees received raises averaging of 3 percent.

Texas correctional officers were awarded 5 percent increases, significantly less than the 14 percent they had requested.

It is difficult to argue with the large raises for state troopers, as they should be adequately compensated for their service, daily performing their duties with little or no thanks.

But it’s hard to muster that same level of approval for another group of state employees who received significant pay increases or members of the Legislature who got hikes in their pension pay, which is tied to the salary of district judges.

Most state agency executives got raises that would be the envy of many in the private sector.

Brad Livingston, executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, got an increase of $73,000, up to $260,000 a year, the American-Statesman reported.

Health and Human Services Commissioner Kyle Janek’s salary also was raised to $260,000, an increase of $35,000 a year.

It is important that executive pay, like trooper pay, is competitive with the market in order to attract and keep good people.

The question is, how much is competitive?

The raises go into effect in September unless the governor vetoes them.

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