Unless the Utah Highway Patrol gets an additional $250,000 to cover the increased price of gasoline, troopers and other personnel may have to be laid off, according to state Public Safety Commissioner Doug Bodrero.
That's what Bodrero said he told Gov. Norm Bangerter during a closed-door meeting Monday to seek support for a supplemental appropriation from the 1991 Legislature.But Bangerter gave him the same answer he is giving other agency officials who are asking for budget help, according to Francine Giani, the governor's press secretary.
"He made no commitments," Giani said, adding that the governor's position is that "we will wait until the budget is prepared before we make any decisions."
Work is already under way on the governor's budget, which will be presented to lawmakers in January.
Bodrero said after the meeting that he sees only two alternatives if he can't get more money to pay for the rapid increase in gas prices since the crisis in the Persian Gulf began.
Those alternatives are furloughing highway patrol troopers and other employees or restricting the number of miles each trooper can drive daily, Bodrero said.
Although about $1 million has been set aside for gas in the current budget, he said the department will be nearly $250,000 in the red by June 30, 1991 - the end of the budget year - even if fuel prices don't continue to increase.
To cover the increased fuel costs through furloughs, Bodrero said about 25 troopers and office staff members would have to be laid off at the first of the year.
Limiting the number of miles troopers can drive makes their jobs more difficult, Bodrero said. Troopers in rural areas often have to drive 50 miles or more just to respond to an accident.
In the spring of 1989, budget problems resulted in troopers being restricted to driving just 100 miles each day. Many complained and the restriction was lifted when the budget year began that July 1.
The Department of Public Safety operates a fleet of about 450 vehicles. Although most of those are Highway Patrol cars, Bodrero said everyone is being asked to conserve energy.