MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. - Gov. Rick Scott announced a pay raise Wednesday for Florida Highway Patrol troopers, but there's some controversy behind it.
FHP Col. Gene Spaulding said troopers welcome the pay increase, but that it's not enough to address the problems facing the agency.
Scott met with troopers late Wednesday morning before announcing that they would be receiving a 5 percent pay increase -- the first in five years for rookie troopers.
The current starting pay for a trooper is $33,900, ranking Florida last in the country in a state with a patrol agency.
The governor said money in the budget this year allowed lawmakers to increase the pay of all state law enforcement officers.
"We were able to do something this year (and) we'll continue to work next year. I've got one more session as governor and we'll keep doing that, and we'll keep trying to make sure we take care of all of our law enforcement (officers)," Scott said.
Spaulding said the FHP has roughly 200 trooper jobs that need to be filled, but that even with the pay hike, it'll still be difficult to be fully staffed.
The colonel said the FHP has been underfunded for years and it's made it difficult to patrol some parts of the state.
"We don't want to be at the top of the spectrum on salaries, we just want to be competitive," Spaulding said. "We want to be in the game and to make sure that the people we train stay with the state and protect the roadways and the citizens of the state long-term for a career."
Scott and Spaulding agreed that the increase is a starting point.
Even with it, troopers in Florida will be still be among the lowest paid in the country.
"As our budget gets better, we have to continue to make sure our law enforcement knows that we respect them and that we appreciate them and we got to pay them," Scott said.
There are two FHP recruit classes that will add roughly 80 troopers to the department in the coming months.
Copyright 2017 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.