Committee Chair: Water Patrol Merger May Sink
The House Public Safety Committee and its chairman, Rep. Mark Bruns, R-Jefferson City, dropped anchor on the plan this week.Nixon endorsed the idea as a way to downsize state government and fix Missouri's $500 million budget hole. "We estimate that, over time, through attrition, we will save between $2 and $3 million," Department of Public Safety deputy director Andrea Spillars said.But legislative staffers in charge of predicting how much money bills will cost say this plan's savings are unknown.
The committee "needs to see how this is going to save the state money before we move forward," Bruns said. His committee could take up the bill again this week.The plan would allow Water Patrol officers to hit the highways during their winter offseason. Highway troopers would help out on Missouri's waterways in the peak summer months.
"Wintertime is their downtime, where we're not using (water patrollers) as efficiently as we could," Spillars said. "And in the summertime, they're stretched so think, we sometimes don't have enough officers."The plan hit rough waters as soon as the hearing began. Former and current Water Patrol members said "no thought" went into the proposal."Just to put a highway patrolman in a boat that drives differently from a car, that's looking for disaster," former Water Patrol commissioner Rad Talburt said.Nixon promoted the idea when he spoke at the University of Missouri this week. "We can and we will lean up government," he said.
Nixon is also pushing to combine the state's secondary and higher education departments.But Talburt said merging the Water Patrol wasn't the way to cut costs."It's kind of like you or I waking up one morning and saying, 'Hey, I'm gonna go build a house,'" Talburt said. "I have no blueprints, I have no idea what it's gonna cost me, I just think I'm gonna go build a house."
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