California Highway Patrol officers and cadets are receiving a nearly 6 percent raise this week, a reflection of average pay increases that have gone to five other law enforcement agencies in the state.
The change, posted on the website of the California Department of Human Resources late Friday, is based on a law that requires the state to survey compensation packages provided to other law enforcement officers each fiscal year and adjust CHP wages accordingly.
The 5.9 percent raise for rank-and-file CHP officers was calculated using the average total compensation of five law enforcement agencies: the San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Oakland police departments, as well as the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
The first 4 percent will be a direct salary increase, and the rest will be allocated to pre-fund the union's health care benefits.
At an estimated cost to the state of $44.4 million, the increase comes after Gov. Jerry Brown struck a three-year deal with SEIU Local 1000 for a 4.5 percent pay increase for its members by 2015.
In 2012, the California Highway Patrol had the fourth-highest average pay for full-time state employees, behind state doctors, attorneys and professional engineers.
"No one questions the value of what the CHP does," said Dr. Lanny Ebenstein, president of the California Center for Public Policy. "But there is no way that California can afford a 5.9 percent raise for any public employee at this time."
Jon Hamm, CEO of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, noted that a new pension law kicked in July 1 that required members to contribute more of their pay to their pensions. He said that means officers' paychecks will see just a 2.5 percent raise.
The union enjoys the state's only legally mandated pay parity, which has drawn criticism in some quarters and gives the union a distinct advantage over other groups that have to argue for raises at the bargaining table.
"We've got a tool that helps level the playing field," Hamm said, "but we've been responsible with it."
The average regular pay for a full-time officer in 2012 was $86,637, and 769 officers made over $100,000 in regular pay. About 70 percent of the union 4,707 officers made more than $100,000 in total income, including overtime, educational incentives, physical fitness and bilingual pay.
CHP officers received no annual increase in 2011 and 2012. They got raises of 4.1 percent in 2008, 0.5 percent in 2009 and 1 percent in 2010.
In 2012, CHP officers agreed to furloughs in exchange for extending their contract another five years until 2018.
During the one-day-a-month furloughs, which ended this June, officers took a 4.62 percent pay cut, saving the state an estimated $36.5 million.
The officers will regain that 4.62 percent reduction in addition to the 5.9 percent. The changes were effective July 1.
State officials had ignored the compensation-calculation law for years, and the CHP union had lost a court bid to have it recognized. Then-Gov. Gray Davis later agreed to recognize it in a contract, and the current contract includes the requirement.
Police at three of the local agencies used in the CHP salary formula have gotten raises recently. In Los Angles, police got a 2 percent increase last year and are scheduled to get 4 percent this year. Los Angeles sheriff's deputies ratified a deal to get a 6 percent increase over two years. And in San Diego, officers recently agreed to a 7 percent raise over five years.
Call Amy Gebert, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5544. Jon Ortiz of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.