Key lawmakers grew frustrated Wednesday while questioning the Department of Public Safety on how it’s been spending money and why it’s requesting a $32 million, or 46 percent, state budget increase for next year.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said it appears extra money the Legislature gave the agency this year didn’t make it to the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol troopers they thought they were helping but instead went to pay raises and other “diversions.”
“When (DPS was) asking the Legislature to cover a $3 million deficit this year, it was giving pay raises to 319 employees,” Reeves said. “… We gave DPS $1.9 million for new automobiles they said they needed. They spent about $500,000, bought 14 or 15 cars, none of which made it to troopers on the road.”
DPS Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz said the new cars bought this year went to the state Bureau of Investigation. He told lawmakers the salary increases were not pay raises but mandated step increases for troopers’ length of service or promotions, increases “they were promised” that haven’t been given since 2007.