Originally created 12/21/06

Police pay report delayed



ATLANTA - Concerned that state troopers, Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents and corrections officers might leave for more lucrative jobs elsewhere, Georgia lawmakers are looking for ways to increase salaries.

A committee headed by Rep. Burke Day, R-Tybee Island, is looking into the issue. While the panel was hoping to issue its report by the end of the month, Mr. Day said it will now likely have to wait until early next year to turn in its recommendations.

At stake is how to attract top-notch talent for the state's police forces at a time of competition between law enforcement agencies, Mr. Day said.

"You're actually seeing 'cop-bidding' going on," said Mr. Day, who also is chairman of the House Public Safety Committee.

Last year, the General Assembly spent more than $7.5 million to give an additional 3 percent pay raise to law enforcement employees at an array of state agencies. That raise, which takes effect Jan. 1, came in addition to a 4 percent increase that all state employees will get at the same time.

But Mr. Day said even higher pay would be needed for the state to remain competitive, and he's been surprised at what the committee has found.

The price tag, Mr. Day said, could go as high as $18 million over the next four years to make salary for state patrol officer and GBI agents competitive and $12 million to begin making headway on salaries for correctional officers.

Other state employees receiving the pay increase Jan. 1 are parole officers at the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, corrections officers at the Department of Juvenile Justice, and conservation rangers at the Department of Natural Resources.

Mr. Day said that by increasing law enforcement salaries, the state could save money long-term because training funds are now being used on officers who leave.

Gov. Sonny Perdue traditionally releases his budget and revenue estimate for the coming year during the first week of the legislative session, which is set to begin Jan. 8.