When our children do wrong, we’re taught as parents to place our focus on the action, not the child.
It’s a way of sending a message that while we find certain behavior unacceptable, it does not change the love and respect we have for that child.
It’s the same kind of message that needs to get through to State Police when the governor criticizes the agency for excessive spending, waste and inefficiency. Correcting certain spending behaviors is not the same as criticizing or being ungrateful for the service that police provide. But no agency, even one we need and respect, can be immune to cuts when it comes to restoring the state’s budget and economy to solvency.
During his state budget message on Feb. 1, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed cutting $60 million from the State Police’s $707 million budget, or about 8.4 percent. The might include cuts by attrition and not holding a recruiting class at State Police instructional facility for the third straight year. Shortly after taking office in January, the governor cut $560,000 in pay raises to 28 State Police top brass that had been approved during the waning days of the Paterson administration. And last week, the Associated Press reported that State Police maintain 3,500 vehicles, about 1,400 of which are used by command officer and investigators for personal use. The cost of replacing, maintaining and fueling the fleet is about $34 million a year.
As with other state and local agencies, State Police are going to have to re-evaluate their spending.
They can start with the cars.
State Police say the command officers and investigators assigned state cars for home use need those vehicles in case they’re called to an emergency in the middle of the night. The problem is that rarely are those officers ever actually called upon for such emergencies. The state comptroller’s office last studies vehicle use in 1992. State Police themselves can’t offer proof that such vehicles are used or needed, because they conveniently don’t keep track. Some have said the cars have become, over time, nothing more than an unwritten perk for top police officials. Well, we can’t afford that perk anymore. If the cars aren’t being used in the matter for which they were assigned, then they represent a large and unnecessary expense for New York taxpayers, and State Police should give them up.
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Like other agencies, State Police also should look at their payroll for potential cost savings.
New York state troopers are among the highest paid of any in the country, with a base starting salary of $66,905 that jumps up to $84,739 after five years.
According to SeeThroughNY, nearly 730 employees in the State Police made annual base salaries of $100,000 or more in 2008/ 2009, with most earning thousands of dollars more in extra pay. Some administrators took home more than $190,000, topping the $179,000 annual salary earned by the governor.
Are there people in positions within State Police earning high six-figure salaries whose pay can’t be justified by the duties they perform? Could some of those people sitting behind desks be put back out on the streets or into other more vital roles or offered early retirement to save money? It’s certainly worth investigating. Are there ways to organize administrators and officers in order to get the most efficient use of the taxpayers’ dollars? Of course there are. There is fat and inefficiency in every government bureaucracy. Can State Police adjust its pay scale downward to reflect the growing budgetary crisis? Why not? Someone taking a 10 percent pay cut on $170,000 would still be making $153,000, certainly a livable wage, even in New York.
Remember, every 10 state employees each earning $100,000 costs taxpayers $1 million, not counting benefits.
There are many opportunities for cuts within the State Police bureaucracy that won’t weaken the agency or jeopardize public safety in the least. It’s time for State Police to become part of the solution and find them.
Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rick Emanuel, Editor Ken Tingley, Editorial Page Editor Mark Mahoney and citizen representative Mike Wild.