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Missouri governor and lawmakers have been removed from a plan to hike pay for state workers

 Missouri Gov. Mike Parson delivering his annual State of the State Address on Jan. 18. Parson asked lawmakers to boost state worker pay by 8.7%.
Tim Bommel
Missouri House Communications
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson delivering his annual State of the State Address on Jan. 18. Parson asked lawmakers to boost state worker pay by 8.7%.

Gov. Mike Parson asked lawmakers to approve an 8.7% pay hike, the biggest in living memory, to stem the loss of state workers to the private sector. But the Missouri House Budget Committee decided that neither the governor nor lawmakers should be included.

Neither Gov. Mike Parson nor legislators should get a proposed pay raise for state workers, the Missouri House Budget Committee decided Tuesday.

Parson asked lawmakers to approve an 8.7% pay hike, the biggest in living memory, to stem the loss of state workers to the private sector. No state department is fully staffed and some are dealing with vacancy rates of 20% or more.

The pay plan also includes an increase in the shift differential to $2 an hour for night work for workers with direct care responsibilities for people in state care or custody. The current differential is 30 cents per hour.

If the bill can reach Parson’s desk by early March, the raises will be added to paychecks issued at the end of that month.

The pay raise is about $183 million of the $627 million in supplemental spending included in a bill passed in the committee on a unanimous vote. The bill also includes $286.5 million in spending authority for the State Emergency Management Agency to distribute federal emergency assistance that may arrive before June 30.

The full House is expected to debate the bill on Thursday.

House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, had been reluctant to support the across-the-board raise. In an interview after the vote, he said he spoke with lawmakers from all parts of the state to determine if the raises would fit in local economies.

He said he did not want state wages to put private employers at a disadvantage.

“I think that this is an aggressive increase, but it’s probably needed,” Smith said. “And so that’s how I came to support it.”

The committee voted down Democratic attempts to increase the across-the-board pay raise to 15% and to set the night differential at $4 an hour.

“There is a severe staffing shortage in our state,” Rep. Stephanie Hein, D-Springfield, said. “We have heard it in every single hearing. By far some of our most severe shortages are happening in those congregate care facilities that operate 24-7.”

While he was not ready to add the additional pay to the supplemental budget, Smith told Hein he was open to targeted increases that would provide additional pay in the upcoming budget.

“Those who take care of our most vulnerable across the state need to be compensated in a way that helps us fill those jobs, provide those services,” Smith said after the hearing.

Removing lawmakers and statewide elected officials from the pay plan will save about $287,000. The pay raises for lawmakers, who currently receive a salary of $37,711, would have been about $1,352 for each of the 163 lawmakers and 34 Senators.

Parson, who receives $137,166, would have received a pay hike of $5,033 and the other statewide officials would have seen pay raises of $3,213 for Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe to $4,379 for Attorney General Andrew Bailey.

Several members of the committee grumbled about losing the pay increase. Rep. Kevin Windham, D-St. Louis, said the legislative salary was his only income.

“I do it because I love it, but Ameren don’t take love payments,” Windham said.

The legislative pay raise was removed from the bill because a separate system for setting salaries, the Missouri Citizens’ Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials, is supposed to make biennial recommendations, Smith said.

“I don’t think that the body that controls the purse strings should be in charge of assigning their own salaries,” Smith said.

The bill as approved in committee mirrors, for the most part, the proposals put forth by Parson for the most urgent additional spending in the fiscal year. One new item added Tuesday is intended to appease Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Last week, Hough warned the supplemental bill would not pass if he wasn’t satisfied state agencies were taking seriously the threat to livestock from a growing population of black vultures in the state.

The vultures, usually carrion eaters, will attack livestock, including calves, first blinding them, then killing them. The birds are causing big losses for cattle breeders in southern Missouri, Hough said Tuesday.

“There have been members of this General Assembly working literally for years with no attention and no action and no plan from any agency,” he said.

His threat to stall the supplemental bill brought action in the form of a $628,750 appropriation to the Department of Agriculture to engage in education and outreach as well as contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and University of Missouri Extension for assistance.

A full year of the program would cost about $1.6 million.

The funding request means that for now, he is satisfied, Hough said.

“What I wanted to see is a plan from either conservation or the Department of Agriculture or someone in the administration to handle this,” he said.

This story was originally published by the Missouri Independent, part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Missouri Independent maintains editorial independence.

Rudi Keller covers the state budget, energy and the legislature for the Missouri Independent.
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