The 129th Training Troop of the Connecticut State Police Training Academy graduated with 83 members in 2020, but subsequent classes have been smaller due to recruiting challenges. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org

The Connecticut State Police Union said Tuesday it has overwhelmingly ratified a four-year contract aimed at bolstering the recruitment and retention of troopers with dramatically higher starting pay, a quicker path to the top of the pay scale, and lump sums for senior troopers.

In voting that concluded Tuesday, the union representing 840 troopers, sergeants and master sergeants voted 675 to 43 in favor of the deal struck two weeks ago with the administration of Gov. Ned Lamont. Another 122 did not vote.

“We appreciate what the governor’s administration did. They really recognize what troopers face every day,” Andrew Matthews, the executive director of the union, said Tuesday night. He called the lopsided ratification “historical.”

While the annual general wage increase is 2.5%, other provisions will yield still higher wages: a double-digit increase in starting pay, a pay scale with eight annual steps instead of the current 10, and annual lump sum payments of 2% for troopers at the top of the scale.

Matthews said he expects the new contract will make troopers the highest-paid cops in Connecticut.

“Our state police deserve the best for their courage, dedication, and commitment to protecting public safety, and this contract will give them greater opportunity to continue doing good on behalf of our communities with better wages, education, training, and professional development benefits,” said Anthony Anthony, a spokesman for Lamont.

The legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis will produce an analysis of how the deal will work and what it will cost the state on an annual basis before it goes before the General Assembly.

The median pay for members of the bargaining unit was $118,307 in 2021, with more than 100 making more than $200,000, according to state payroll records. A dozen made more than $300,000, including a sergeant who earned $356,871.

As outlined by Matthews, the contract has similarities to and differences from the four-year deal accepted last spring by SEBAC, a coalition of unions that represents 35 bargaining units across state government, and ratified by lawmakers.

Both deals provide annual general wage increases of 2.5%, plus bonuses of $3,500. But the state police union can reopen talks on the general wage increase in the fourth year of their deal — and starting pay is getting a huge jump.

As described by Matthews, the annualized rate of pay for trainees will go from $50,000 to $64,000, and the first step for sworn officers who have completed academy training jumps from about $61,000 to $71,000 a year, about a 16% increase. The starting pay is boosted by eliminating the first two pay steps.

“I think it’s going to help the state recruit new recruits, because right now we’re having a tough time,” Matthews said. “You know, the legislature budgets a class of 100, and you only get 40 to 60 people in the class.”

The deal could entice young municipal officers to jump to the state police. Under the new contract, a certified officer hired from a municipal department will start on the second step of the new pay scale, at $73,000 a year.

“So, that’s pretty substantial,” Matthews said. “I think that’s going to attract people. I think it’s going to attract municipal police officers that are junior.”

In addition to the general wage increase, the SEBAC deal provides an annual step increase of about 2% to all but the most senior workers, while the state police contract would provide 2% lump payments only to those who already had reached the top of the eight-step pay scale.

Republican Bob Stefanowski repeatedly noted in his 2022 gubernatorial campaign that the union had voted no confidence in Lamont in 2020 after he signed a police accountability bill with provisions opposed by police.

But the union remained neutral in the campaign, and Matthews said the contract offered by the Lamont administration “recognizes the risks and the sacrifices that our troopers make to protect the public.”

Anthony said the governor was grateful to the police and David Krayeski, the lead negotiator for his administration.

“Governor Lamont appreciates the open line of communication with the union and the work done by David Krayeski and the Office of Labor Relations in striking this important deal,” Anthony said. “Most importantly, the governor is grateful for the men and women of the Connecticut State Police who put their lives on the line day after day.”

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Mark PazniokasCapitol Bureau Chief

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.