JACKSON, Miss. — The head of the Mississippi Department of Transportation says her agency needs more budget flexibility so it can try to keep employees.

Melinda McGrath says she wants to stop the “revolving door” of workers leaving for higher pay in other agencies or the private sector.

New outlets report that the Department of Transportation has 354 vacant jobs. About 3,800 employees in the department have civil-service protection, which prevents them from being fired for political reasons.

Lawmakers have temporarily removed civil-service protection for workers in a few agencies in recent years. That gives directors more power to move money within the agency’s budget to give raises to some employees.

McGrath says the Department of Transportation has trouble keeping engineers and certified public accountants.