LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The Nevada Highway Patrol Association which represents hundreds of Nevada Department of Public Safety employees says the state is facing a crisis when it comes to attracting and keeping staff due in large part to a growing pay disparity among law enforcement agencies.
Paul Klein a spokesperson and lobbyist with the association says there are at least 100 vacant positions across the state and many of them are for troopers.
"It is very difficult to attract cadets because of that pay inequity," said Klein.
According to published advertisements for starting pay and provided to 13 Investigates, the association says the starting average salary for a trooper of $41,923.80, is 20 percent below the average for 8 other state law enforcement agencies.
"It costs anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000 to train somebody to make them properly prepared for the road and when they leave within two years, you're losing that money," said Klein.
Klein adds the Nevada Highway Patrol typically sees new employees begin leaving after two years but even experienced employees have left for more pay at other agencies including to some outside of Nevada.
13 Investigates has learned at least four Nevada troopers have applied for and received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for food, at least one trooper took on a second job as a Starbucks barista in order to make ends meet.
Additional exit interview data obtained by 13 Investigates shows an even darker pay problem for those choosing to leave the Department of Public Safety.
In 2017, more than 60 percent of those who left the agency cited their compensation inequity as the main reason.
Klein says the comparatively low wages for state employees stems from Nevada laws which prevent state workers from collective bargaining practices, unlike their counterparts in other non-state law enforcement agencies.
Assembly Bill 382 would study the pay disparity for troopers, dispatchers and other departments of public safety employees and then address how to fix it.
The bill does not provide a mechanism for any additional money for salaries.
Senate Bill 135 would make provisions to allow state employees to collective bargain.
As of Tuesday evening, both bills are stuck in committee without any hearings scheduled with a looming Monday deadline for passage before the legislature adjourns until 2021.