Walker announces pay raise for troopers

Gov. Bill Walker announced today that Alaska State Troopers are getting a pay raise at the start of next month.

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Walker made the announcement at the troopers’ Mat-Su West post near Wasilla, which he says has been hit hard by vacancies as troopers have left for better pay and benefits elsewhere. There and elsewhere, troopers have been stretched thin.

The 7.5 percent raise takes effect Sept. 1. That’s for more than 300 troopers, all except the two colonels in charge. Walker says this raise does not require legislative approval because it’s an amendment to an existing contract, but his administration is seeking an additional 7.5 percent increase officials say would require legislative approval.

Asked about the timing, Walker says the troopers have been facing a retention crisis. They now have more than 50 vacant trooper positions, and they need to be a competitive employer.

“It’s now, because as we’re going into another winter season, we have a big class coming out of the academy,” Walker said. “This is the culmination of about a year-and-a-half of sort of getting to this point of what’s the right number, what’s the right amount.”

Walker says the increase fits legislative intent in the state operating budget to increase trooper pay by 15 percent total.

The troopers union says the closest pay comparison was to the Anchorage Police Department. Depending on how long they’ve been with the department, comparable positions make 16 to 19 percent more.

Walker says losing recruits or longtime troopers to departments like APD or, say, King County in Washington, means wasting the money spent training them and the loss of a great deal of experience.

“This is about fixing what we have now,” Walker said. “I get a lot of input around the state about ‘We need more troopers.’ And we certainly do. And I have nothing against King County, but I don’t necessarily want us to do the training for King County, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

Walt Monegan, Walker’s public safety commissioner, says the administration will pursue increasing the overall number of trooper positions, while it addresses the vacancies.

A campaign spokesperson for Walker’s Republican opponent for governor – Mike Dunleavy – said the campaign had no comment on the trooper pay increase.

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Casey Grove is host of Alaska News Nightly and a general assignment reporter at Alaska Public Media. cgrove [at] alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8446 | About Casey