February 20, 2014 10:03:34 AM
JACKSON -- Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant says he wants lawmakers to set aside money to train a new group of state troopers -- and if they don't do it, he'll call them into a special session to force more discussion about the issue.
Lawmakers are still weeks away from finishing work on an overall state budget for fiscal 2015, which begins July 1.
The earliest budget recommendation from top lawmakers does not include money for a trooper training school. But, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Eugene "Buck" Clarke, R-Hollandale, said Wednesday that about $6.9 million could be added before a final spending plan is adopted.
Bryant told The Clarion-Ledger Wednesday that he's willing to call a special session to push for funding of a trooper school, if needed. He said lives are at stake. The Highway Patrol's last trooper training school was in 2011.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has been harshly critical of the Department of Public Safety's spending. He says too much is being spent on administrators and not enough on troopers. The department's commissioner is appointed by Bryant.
"We repeatedly hear horror stories about one trooper for four counties," Reeves said. "There are over 500 sworn officers. One for four counties means there are 25 on the road any one time. That's not a manpower issue. That's a leadership issue. I hope the governor will address the number of troopers that are on the road."
Bryant said DPS' administrative costs are about 5 percent, comparable to other government agencies.
The department has 502 sworn officers, of which 341 are working in enforcement and 106 are working for the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, Clarke said.
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