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W.Va. troopers push for raise

March 16, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - West Virginia State Police troopers could find out this week if Gov. Cecil Underwood will give them another shot at getting a pay raise this year.

Legislation that would have boosted state police salaries died last weekend and Underwood is considering whether to call a special session to revisit the issue, according to the governor's spokesman.

"The governor is reluctant to call a special session if it can't be done quickly and efficiently," said Underwood Press Secretary Rod Blackstone.

West Virginia has the lowest-paid state troopers in the nation, according to figures released by the West Virginia Troopers Association.

A first-year trooper in West Virginia makes $26,259 compared to the $38,515 starting salary for a Pennsylvania State Police trooper, according to the WVTA.

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A 20-year captain with the West Virginia State Police is paid $47,520 while the same rank in Pennsylvania pays $77,969 a year, said the WVTA.

A regional average for an area that includes West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky shows West Virginia troopers lag 17 percent behind in starting pay and 29 percent behind in pay for 20-year captains, according to the WVTA.

"We would like to get up to the regional averages, but I don't think there is any way that is going to happen," said WVTA President Dave Williams. "A 13 percent raise would be an excellent start."

Because of the pay disparity, Eastern Panhandle State Police detachments have lost troopers to higher paying jobs in other states and in the private sector, said WVTA representative Sgt. Joe Adams, of the Martinsburg detachment.

Trooper morale took a hit last weekend when legislators couldn't agree on a House of Delegates bill that would have given troopers a $3,972 raise, said Adams. A similar bill in the Senate would have provided a $756 raise, he said.

"The raise wouldn't have raised taxes," Adams said. "The money was already in the budget."

Adams said Eastern Panhandle legislators have been supportive of the pay raise issue, adding he is unsure why state police have not gotten a raise since 1996.

"I wish I knew what the problem was," he said. "Then we could address it."

While the WVTA is frustrated, there are no plans for work stoppages as a protest, said Williams.

"That is not even under consideration," he said. "We're out here doing our job because we want to do our job."

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