Texas lawmakers will return to Austin Jan. 8 for the 2013 Legislative Session.
Officials with the Department of Public Safety hope lawmakers will approve salary increases for state troopers. A recent report by the State Auditor’s office found troopers are making less money than many police and sheriff’s officers across the state.
Trooper Robbie Barrera says she didn’t join the Department of Public Safety for the money.
“I can only speak for myself. And, I mean, I knew what my salary was when I took the job," Barrera says. "And I work hard every day and do my job 110 percent. It doesn’t matter what my salary is, I’m still going to do the job to the best of my ability, to make a difference out there and to protect the citizens of the state of Texas.”
But, Barrera says, she and her colleagues didn’t need to read the auditor’s report to know they’re not making as much money as many of their peers.
“When you’re at events where we’re all recruiting individuals, it’s very well known what other agencies’ salaries are in comparison to ours," Barrera says.
The auditor’s office found the maximum base salary for a state trooper is about 20 percent less than the salaries of police and sheriff's officers with the state’s seven largest local law enforcement departments, including Dallas, Houston and Harris County.
City of Austin officers have the highest maximum base pay at more than $95,000. A state trooper makes a third less.
Barrera helps recruit for DPS.
“It is hard for us to recruit the top individuals because of the salary," she says.
It could also affect retention. The turnover rate for DPS in fiscal year 2011 was just over six percent. For trooper trainees, it was more than ten times that. The department says it doesn’t keep numbers on why people leave DPS.
The state auditor’s office put together three scenarios for making wages for troopers and law enforcement officers of three other state departments more competitive. Raising the base pay for those approximately 4,400 employees would cost an additional $30 to $50 million a year over the next two years.