As we often say, essential public employees are always there when we need them–especially first responders. Recruiting and retaining first responders is critical to the health and safety of communities across the country. Many states have struggled to recruit and retain qualified employees. Kentucky lawmakers are now making an effort to rectify recruitment issues by increasing state trooper salaries by $15,000.
This past year, Kentucky experienced two devastating disasters that showed how invaluable and vital first responders are to communities in times of crisis. In December 2021, just before the holidays, a violent tornado ran through Kentucky, destroying numerous towns and putting many lives at risk. In late July, the state suffered severe flooding, damaging even more homes, and taking and uprooting the lives of many. State troopers, among other first responders, were at the forefront of search and rescue efforts during these catastrophic events.
While legislators have increased the salaries of state troopers, employees hired after January 2015 are still participating in a hybrid cash balance retirement system offered through Tier 3, which does not provide an adequate retirement. This past legislative session, lawmakers introduced HB 135, a bill that sought to move hazardous employees participating in Tier 3 to Tier 2, in which employees hired before January 1 currently participate. However, the bill was not passed this year.
While a pay increase is nice, pensions remain a vital resource for recruiting and retaining employees, especially first responders who work tirelessly and risk their lives daily to protect their communities. First responders are expected to give their lives daily. A secure retirement is a minuscule offering compared to what they provide day in and day out.