BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana State Police troopers are celebrating a big bump in salary.
It is not the amount they had hoped for, but the state budget committee settled at an amount that left the department satisfied.
Louisiana State Police Superintendent, Colonel Mike Edmonson, was backed by a room full of Louisiana State Police troopers as he made his plea to lawmakers. A raise for 1,000 state police employees holding the rank of major and below was on the line.
"There's simply not a good time, but I can promise you this with all my heart, it's the right time," Col. Edmonson said.
The Colonel asked legislators to move $14.6 million that was raised within the Louisiana State Police Department into an account to pay for an average of 36% in raises.
"I'm not here to ask you to find money. I'm simply asking you to spend the money for its intended purpose that's already been allocated," Col. Edmonson said.
What seemed like a simple move was greeted by disapproval from some lawmakers including Joint Legislative Committee Chair, Representative Jim Fannin, who reminded them of a looming $1.4 billion budget deficit.
"We face tremendous issues with revenue and no fault of ours or yours but we have to address it," Fannin said.
The money for the raises is being generated through fines collected from motorists who do not carry insurance.
Representative Lance Harris and some others argued the Insurance Verification Program has not been around long enough to show it can support the pay raises.
"What if next year we see that this fund is not getting the money it needs to pay that $41 million? Where would that money come from," Harris asked.
Some lawmakers fear it would force them to tap into the general fund. But not everyone seemed concerned with the scenario.
"Would we ever take money from TOPS and place it somewhere else? I don't think we would," Rep. Pat Smith said.
"I think it is an insult to the people of Louisiana that we are dealing with this verification scheme to pay our troopers. Use whatever monies there are to pay them," Rep. Elbert Guillory said.
To stay on the safe side, Senator Gerald Long proposed a 20% raise instead, which would call for moving $10.1 million into the account to fund the raises.
"Conventional wisdom says let's go with what we know and then work on what we don't know," Long said.
Lawmakers passed the amended proposal at 20%.
Colonel Edmonson calls it a successful first step in securing better pay for his officers.
"If we are able to sustain the additional dollars, we'll come back to this body and say the funds shows money is sustainable and will there in the future," Edmonson said.
The colonel said the raises will kick in as soon as possible.