ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - New Mexico's top cop said he knows state employees should be happy with pay raises the House is proposing under its $6.3 billion budget, but he's not and explained why it's still not enough to keep his officers around.
"I have to be very honest with you, it's disappointing," State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said.
Wednesday, in a nearly unanimous vote, 65-3, the House passed a $6.3 billion dollar spending bill for the next fiscal year. The proposed budget includes a 2 percent pay raise for most state employees, but New Mexico State Police officers would get a 6.5 percent pay increase.
"The governor's compensation package allows for a certain amount designated for State Police and compared to what the House did, it cuts $5,200 a year away from the State Police officers."
Chief Kassetas said while the 6.5 percent pay raise is generous, it's not nearly enough, and this is why:
"Currently, State Police is about sixth in the pay scale for starting officers and then after a year, we get reduced to eighth because other agencies move up much quicker," he said.
Take for instance the Albuquerque Police Department. The starting salary for an officer is $20.44 an hour, and after a year, they get bumped up to $28. After a year with State Police, officers make $22.27 an hour, while they start out at $21.62.
Other departments that make more than State Police officers after one year of service include Bernalillo County, Carlsbad, Farmington, Hobbs, Los Alamos, and San Juan County.
"I know that some people may look at it like the State Police Chief is being greedy, but at the end of the day I know what it takes to do this job," Chief Kassetas said.
The chief also knows other departments will be after his officers. Mayor Tim Keller has also talked about raising the salary for APD officers as the city faces a crime crisis.
With APD being short staffed, Union President Shaun Willoughby said they will take all the help they can get.
"You guys are going to need to compete or we're going to go after your best and brightest, and we're not going to feel ashamed to do it because we're 400-500 officers down," he said.
That's exactly what Chief Kassetas wants to prevent.
"Other chiefs and sheriffs know that State Police officers are some of the most highly trained and experienced officers," he said. "I can't become a proving ground for officers that we put effort and investment in at the state level only to have them leave the New Mexico State Police."
The budget isn't finalized. It will now head to the Senate in the last two weeks of the session.
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