State Trooper School Funding Still Undecided

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Jackson, Miss. The Mississippi Department of Public Safety has become the focus of several money talks this year There's a lot of support for a trooper school but it's not signed, sealed and delivered yet.

With the ball in the state Senate's court, the question is if money management concerns will jeopardize the chance of new funding. Senators say no.

"You really have two different issues there," said Sen. Buck Clarke, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "The trooper school is dealing with the manpower needs of the highway patrol. And we all recognize that they need some more manpower."

State Sen. Terry Burton, vice-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, agrees.

"We need to take as much off of them as we can, as much worry away from them as we can," Burton said. "The management on the fifth floor of the DPS building has nothing to do with the troopers out there on the road."

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has been critical of the department's leadership. He says the money's not making it down to the troopers.

Sen. Brice Wiggins shares those concerns. More than $460,000 was allocated this budget year for pay raises.

"Dollars to go towards step raises that apparently did not go to the officers on the ground," Wiggins said. "I think everybody in the legislature is most concerned about the troopers on the ground."

The House passed an appropriations bill Monday that includes $6.9 million for the trooper school. That's missing from the Senate version.

"Let's just say it's high on everybody's list. And we just haven't put it in our appropriations bill yet," said Clarke. "But it'll be one of the first things we talk about."

When the Senate presented its teacher pay plan, Reeves said it would mean other budget sacrifices. Burton said he doesn't think public safety will be one of them.

"It's high enough on the priority list, we totally understand," said Burton. "The trooper school itself is not going to be at risk because of anything we have done or not done."

A House-Senate conference committee will talk dollar details in the coming days.