As reported by nj.com, State Attorney General Jeffrey Chisea made his case for the Department of Law and Public Safety’s proposed $958 million budget, which includes money for new State Police recruits and hundreds of patrol vehicles. The budget, proposed by Governor Chris Christie in February, also includes money for the State Police to hire more civilians to take over administrative tasks done by enlisted troopers so they can be reassigned tot eh field to bolster ranks thinned by retirements.
Overall, the proposed budget represents a 4 percent decrease from the current year and a 9 percent decrease from fiscal year 2011. In terms of state support for the department, it will receive about the same as the current year and about 12 percent less than 2011.
“The scope of our department’s mission is vast, and the challenges are many,” Chisea, who was previously Christie’s chief counsel, told the Assembly Budget Committee. “But our commitment is to meet the challenges, and to do it while spending prudently.”
The budget includes $3.3 million for the first of two new State Police classes of recruits planned for 2013. The classes will begin with 150 recruits and cost about $3.5 million each, according to the budget. About 115 recruits are expected to graduate.
Facing a wave of retirements, the State Police expects its ranks to continue to thin during the next year. According to projections, the division could have 2,276 troopers by the end of the fiscal year 2013, the lowest number in more than a decade.
In addition, the division expects to purchase 250 new vehicles next fiscal year in addition to the 311 purchased during the current fiscal year. Nearly 40 percent of State Police vehicles have more than 125,000 miles on them, Chisea said.
Lawmakers questioned Chisea about his department’s use of private law firms to supplement its lawyers. The Division of Law paid about $21.6 million for help from outside firms in 2011, about the same as last year and down from $26.5 million in 2008. “I understand that we need to be vigilant about watching those bills,” Chisea said. He added that a new electronic billing system put into place last year identified about $748,000 in invalid invoices from law firms.
Many private firms with close ties to Christie have seen spikes in business from the Division of Law since the Republican governor took office. It’s not uncommon for new administrations, both Republican and Democrat, to shift state legal work to friends and allies.