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Following concerns over State Police raises, agency asks lawmakers to boost pay of retirement-age officers

New Mexico State Police vehicle
Rescuenav via Flickr
New Mexico State Police vehicle

After some lawmakers took issue with proposed raises for State Police officers meant to help with recruitment, the Department of Public Safety is asking the Legislature to consider instead funding bonuses for senior officers to help stem retirements.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has recommended 14% raises for state officers. Lawmakers on the House Appropriations and Finance Committee earlier this week expressed concern that the bump could hurt recruitment at local law enforcement agencies that can’t pay as much.

Thursday, the Department of Public Safety presented its budget request to the committee. Sec. Jason Bowie acknowledged the hesitance around the raises, turning lawmakers’ attention to another means of supporting State Police staffing.

“If this legislative body is not inclined to fund our pay plan, we would encourage consideration of this longevity pay proposal,” he said. “If we can’t necessarily bring them in the door, hopefully we can at least retain the ones that we do have.”

The plan would boost the pay of officers who are eligible to retire, incentivizing them to stay on. It would offer more annually — $7,500 for officers with 15 to 19 years on the force, and $10,000 for those with 20 to 24 years.

While neither the governor nor the Legislative Finance Committee had the proposal in their budget recommendations, State Police Chief Troy Weisler named it as his top budget priority. He said the number of retirement-eligible officers in their ranks have doubled over the last three years or so.

He also noted the idea might appeal to those who pushed back on the raises.

“It’s an improvement internally but it does not adversely affect any other agencies, which I know has been a concern that’s been brought up in this committee previously,” he said.

Rep. Rod Montoya (R-San Juan), who is a vocal critic of the raises, said he was “much more sympathetic” to funding longevity pay to help the agency hold on to its existing officers, calling it an “easier ask” of the Legislature.

The 2024 legislative session officially kicks off Tuesday, Jan. 16.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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