Those well-paid state troopers

by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

New York has the second highest-paid state police force in the country, the Gannett News Service (GNS) reported last week, based on both state payroll and U.S. Census records.  GNS said the average salary for all ranks of state trooper came to $112,000 as of 2009 — although a separate data source indicates the average may be higher.

State government employees belonging to the Police and Fire Retirement System earned an average salary of $115,709 as of fiscal 2009-10, according to the retirement system’s latest available annual report. At the state level, PFRS pensions are limited to troopers and a relatively small number of others, such as park police and conservation officers, who generally earn lower base salaries. In any event, salaries are only part of it, as an Associated Press report pointed out:

Besides the salary, troopers receive generous benefits. Troopers start with 15 days vacation — and get up to 28 days after 21 years. They also are entitled to 13 sick days a year that can be accumulated up to 300 days; on retirement, 165 days can go to pay health insurance and a fifth of the rest can be cashed in.

Add 12 holidays annually, three to five personal days and a $110 bonus to members who stay fit. The state pays to dry-clean uniforms and gives 15 days of bereavement leave. And troopers contribute nothing toward retirement, with the state kicking in nearly 19 percent of state police pay — or $106 million last year.

Troopers can retire after 20 years, regardless of age, and receive a pension of one half their final average salary and overtime — plus continuing health insurance coverage at little or no cost, depending on how many sick time hours a retiree has “banked” to apply to his or her share of the premium.

Like their counterparts in other state government unions unions, members of the NYS Troopers PBA received steady 3-4 percent annual pay hikes, plus extras, under a recently expired four-year contract.  But Governor Andrew Cuomo will find it hard to win contract savings from the  PBA because, thanks to a law enacted under Governor Pataki over a decade ago, the troopers have the right to unilaterally invoke binding arbitration of contract impasses.  Arbitration awards rarely produce significant concessions or structural changes in contracts, as labor lawyer Terry O’Neil points out in our 2007 “Taylor Made” study.

- E.J. McMahon is the President at the Empire Center for Public Policy.