AUSTIN (KXAN) — Once again, after getting pushback from state lawmakers, the Texas Department of Public Safety is backing off a plan to cut its program that rehires retired troopers.
DPS Director Steven McCraw said in an email to all employees Texas leaders are pursuing an alternative option to fund these positions under the Retire/Rehire program.
“In the interest of fairness, these commissioned officers under the Retire/Rehire program who have already separated from the agency as a result of the Reduction-in-Force (RIF) action, will be afforded an opportunity to return to the department,” McCraw said.
The president of the Texas Department of Public Safety Officers Association (DPSOA) said the agency notified the union about the changes on Wednesday night. DPSOA President Jimmy Jackson said while he was told the 117 troopers that are a part of the retire/rehire program won’t be laid off, he doesn’t know the details on how the agency will rectify its budget shortfall.
McCraw’s email said DPS has authority to use certain other appropriated funds to pay for the positions for this biennium, but a spokesperson didn’t provide additional details on where this would exactly come from.
According to a post on the DPSOA’s Facebook page, DPS worked with Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Speaker Joe Straus, Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson and House Appropriations Chair Jon Zerwas to keep the program from getting the ax.
In December, DPS Director Steven McCraw issued a memo stating the department would cut the program by May 31, 2018. McCraw said the cuts were needed because he was told to cut $50 million from the agency’s budget. DPS said the 117 employees are currently drawing a retirement annuity in addition to a monthly salary.
McCraw’s decision drew an immediate reaction from several lawmakers. State Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, wrote in a letter to McCraw the decision to cut the program as a cost-saving measure was a “guise” and targeted “old” troopers. Nevárez said Thursday he was happy for these troopers.
Last summer, DPS decided to cut business hours at 11 driver’s license offices across the state due to budget cuts. However, when customers complained and lawmakers got involved, the agency backpedaled on the cuts, stating, “The decision to resume extended hours came after discussion with state leaders and state legislators. The Driver License Division will explore other options and efficiencies in order to keep the extended-hour schedule in place.”