JONESBORO — State Reps. Jack Ladyman and Dwight Tosh, both R-Jonesboro, said Tuesday legislators are looking at ways to help local law enforcement and other first-responders through a possible tax credit from the state.

A proposal for a $3,000 state tax credit for law enforcement officers in Arkansas failed to gain a vote in December during a special session of the Legislature.

Tosh said one issue is that some legislators thought other professions – such as firefighters, teachers and nurses, among others – should get a tax credit.

“To single out one over the others is a concern,” Tosh said, noting they are still looking at options.

Low pay for law enforcement officers has been a problem, according to Craighead County Sheriff Marty Boyd. He pointed out that Arkansas ranks 49th in the country for law enforcement salaries.

County quorum courts and municipalities’ city councils set the pay for law enforcement.

Boyd said the Arkansas Sheriffs Association, of which he is the president, will meet later this month and explore options to increase law enforcement pay in Arkansas.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday proposed to raise entry-level salaries for Arkansas State Police to place them second in the Southern region, Ladyman said.

Hutchinson’s budget plan would include $7.6 million to raise entry salaries for troopers, according to The Associated Press.

He hopes the governor’s move will spur local governments to raise salaries for their law officers, as well.

Tosh and Ladyman said the state is bound by law to have a balanced budget.

“Police officers need more pay,” Ladyman said. “There’s a lot of needs out there, and the Legislature is aware of the needs for law enforcement.”

Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott said Tuesday the governor’s proposal to raise entry-level salaries for state troopers could affect his department.

“It’s always the possibility that someone will go for the better paying job,” he said. “I have no doubt we’ll lose somebody.”

He said even if the proposed increase at the state police takes effect, the cost of living where troopers are assigned doesn’t always cover the increase in pay.

Elliott said Mayor Harold Copenhaver is considering a salary survey for first-responders in Jonesboro.

“The mayor has seen the problem that needs to be rectified,” he said.

Elliott said recruitment for law enforcement has been a challenge not just locally, but nationwide.

“A lot of people are getting out of law enforcement,” he said, noting negative publicity of officers’ actions in the media.

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