Despite the veto, troopers will still get overtime pay

JACKSON – Mississippi’s 550 troopers apparently will receive a pay boost even through Gov. Haley Barbour vetoed a section of a bill that set aside additional money to provide them overtime pay.
Public Safety Commissioner Steve Simpson, a Barbour appointee, announced Friday that he was asking the state Personnel Board to recalculate the pay of state troopers to provide them $2.9 million in additional pay.
The $2.9 million will mean troopers who work overtime will receive between $2,500 and $3,500 in additional pay, based on their rank.
The $2.9 million is the amount of money set aside for overtime pay in the appropriations bill for the Department of Public Safety. In July, Barbour vetoed the section of the bill instructing Simpson to provide the overtime pay.
In the partial veto, Barbour said it should be the commissioner’s discretion whether to pay the overtime and said that providing the pay could mean other DPS divisions, such as the Crime Lab, might have to be cut.
Attorney General Jim Hood filed a lawsuit against Barbour, arguing that the partial veto was unconstitutional.
On Friday, Simpson said in a news release, “Gov. Barbour asked me to find a way to pay the troopers the compensation they deserve without giving up the agency’s discretion to manage its budget. Using the appropriated funds in this manner is consistent with the governor’s veto message and preserves my ability as DPS commissioner.”
Senate Appropriations Chairman Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, said he joined with his House counterpart, Appropriations Chair Johnny Stringer, D-Montrose, to write a letter asking the Personnel Board to make the pay adjustment for the troopers.
Nunnelee said Personnel Board officials indicated they believe it is within the board’s discretion to do so. Nunnelee said Barbour vetoed the language requiring the troopers to receive the overtime pay, but did not veto the section providing Public Safety the money. Thus the money is still available to pay the troopers, he said.
“My priority is to make sure the men and women who put their lives on the line receive the appropriate pay,” Nunnelee said.
Hood said he still plans to pursue his lawsuit because the partial veto was unconstitutional.
“It’s a shame it took a lawsuit to force the governor to do what was right,” he said. “The troopers were lawfully owed this money. We will continue with our lawsuit because it will take the court to make the governor understand he does not rule the state single-handedly.”
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@djournal.com.

Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal