Ducey quietly taps $95M in virus cash to boost trooper pay

Jan 16, 2022, 2:30 PM

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey quietly tapped $95 million in federal coronavirus relief money in November to boost pay for state troopers, prison guards and workers in several other state departments deemed essential.

The Republican governor’s office did not announce that he was using cash from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act to provide 20% pay boosts to the state’s corrections officers, 15% increases to state troopers and 10% increases to workers at the departments of child safety, economic security, juvenile corrections, transportation and health services.

Ducey’s office routinely issues news releases when he allocates cash from the pot of COVID-19 relief money he controls, but that wasn’t done this time.

Using the money to provide premium pay for essential workers is allowed under terms of the virus relief law signed by the Democratic president last March. It allows state and local governments to boost pay by up to $13 per hour for essential workers and allows a maximum per-employee amount of $25,000.

The Associated Press learned of the money’s use when an updated report on the governor’s use of virus relief funds was posted by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, which provides non-partisan analysis of state finances to lawmakers.

The premium pay started flowing to 17,291 of the state’s approximately 35,000 workers on Nov. 27. Ducey’s budget director, Matt Gress, informed the Republican Senate president and House speaker of his decision to tap the funds for premium pay in a Dec. 9 letter.

Ducey is seeking similar permanent raises for troopers and at other agencies in the budget proposal he released on Friday.

The state Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry and the Department of Public Safety have been struggling to hire and retain officers, in part because of wages that are low or uncompetitive. Ducey is seeking a permanent 15% raise for state troopers, 20% for juvenile and adult corrections employees and pay boosts for several other agencies that total nearly $250 million a year.

Jeffrey Hawkins, president of the Arizona State Troopers Association, said the premium pay is sorely needed at the agency that not only patrols state highways but does investigations, runs a crime lab and does many other law enforcement jobs.

The agency has 448 vacancies out of nearly 2,300 approved positions and Ducey wants to spend $31 million a year on DPS raises alone, according to the governor’s office.

“It really was just a stopgap to start trying to stop people from leaving because all the agencies around us have received considerable pay raises and we were still so far behind,” Hawkins said. “So yeah, well deserved and hopefully it does what the intent was, to try to stop the high number of regrettable attrition that we have, increased retirement, guys going out earlier than they probably would have.”

The agency pays its starting troopers about $57,000 a year, and the new 15% stipend gets them to $65,000, Hawkins said. Average annual pay before overtime for non-supervisors is just over $70,000.

“We weren’t competitive at that rate,” Hawkins said. “But I’d say that Arizona in general has not followed the market trend when it comes to police pay.”

He pointed to officer pay in Texas and California, where rookie California Highway Patrol officers start at $93,000 a year. Cities and counties in Arizona are also struggling to fill positions because of low pay, and Ducey said in his state of the state address last week that his 15% pay hike would make troopers the best paid officers in the state.

It’s not just line DPS troopers that are getting premium pay; dispatchers, crime lab technicians, radio repair staff and many others are getting premium pay, which ends on June 30.

The same is true at other agencies, according to a spreadsheet of classifications earning premium pay provided by the state Department of Administration. Even mail clerks at the state’s prisons are getting 20% premium pay.

A starting correctional officer earns just over $35,000 a year before the 20% premium pay.

C.J. Karamargin, Ducey’s spokesman, said there is increasing competitiveness in all sorts of jobs.

“We’ve got some quite a few critical positions that are vital to public safety,” Karamargin said. “So acknowledging the importance of these positions at this time where staffing is such a big issue across the board, we thought this was a good thing to do.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Azteca Bridal, a Phoenix wedding and quinceañera dress store, closed after 60 years....

Alyssa Bickle /Cronkite News

Azteca Bridal closes doors in Phoenix after 60 years of family-operated business

Azteca Bridal closed its doors for the last time after selling quinceañera and bridal dresses for 60 years.

6 minutes ago

Left webcam shows part of Valley with sign warning drivers to slow down. Right webcam shows snow on...

SuElen Rivera

Nearly every Valley city gets rains in overnight storm, parts of northern Arizona sees snow

Rain swept across metro Phoenix overnight and into the morning, while snow fell on parts of northern Arizona.

2 hours ago

Retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and Arizona resident and the first woman on the U.S. Supreme C...

Sandra Day O’Connor, who blazed a trail from Arizona to US Supreme Court, dies at 93

Sandra Day O'Connor, who blazed a trail from Arizona to become the first woman to serve as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, died Friday in Phoenix.

2 hours ago

Mugshot of Pedro Quintana-Lujan. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office will no longer pursue a case...

Goodyear Police questions MCAO decision on driver who crashed into bicyclists

The Goodyear Police Department is questioning the decision by metro Phoenix's top prosecutor on a case involving a driver who crashed into group of bicyclists earlier this year.

3 hours ago

A judge rejected Kari Lake’s request to examine ballot envelopes of 1.3 million voters, giving th...

Associated Press

Kari Lake loses bid to see ballot envelopes in trial tied to Arizona election defeat

A judge rejected Kari Lake’s request to examine signed ballot envelopes of 1.3 million early voters from Arizona's 2022 election.

4 hours ago

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell  is cracking down on organized retail crime with a new cam...

Maricopa County Attorney’s Office announces 3 more organized retail crime charges

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell announced charges against three defendants involved in Organized Retail Crime (ORC).

6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(KTAR News Graphic)...

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

Follow @KTAR923...

The 2023 Diamondbacks are a good example to count on the underdog

The Arizona Diamondbacks made the World Series as a surprise. That they made the playoffs at all, got past the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card round, swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and won two road games in Philadelphia to close out a full seven-game NLCS went against every expectation. Now, […]


Midwestern University

Midwestern University: innovating Arizona health care education

Midwestern University’s Glendale Campus near Loop 101 and 59th Avenue is an established leader in health care education and one of Arizona’s largest and most valuable health care resources.

Ducey quietly taps $95M in virus cash to boost trooper pay