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Parson proposes $15 minimum pay for state employees

New floor, 5.5 percent cost-of-living raise, would start Feb. 1 if lawmakers agree

Gov. Mike Parson wants to tap Missouri’s budget surplus to provide immediate raises to state employees and enact a new $15 an hour minimum pay for all state jobs.

In a news release, Parson said he would ask lawmakers to speed a supplemental budget bill to his desk to provide a 5.5 percent cost-of-living pay raise, plus money to move all state workers to the new minimum, by Feb. 1. Lawmakers begin their 2022 session on Jan. 5.

“With many positions across state government facing turnover rates anywhere from 10-100 percent and vacancy rates from 30-100 percent, it is past time for us to make these investments in our state workforce, which remains one of the lowest paid [in] the nation,” Parson said in the release.

The release estimated the cost of the raises at $91 million through June 30, including $52 million in general revenue. Parson estimates that the cost to continue the raises into the next fiscal year will cost the state $218 million, including $123 million in general revenue.

The raises across state government would be in addition to the 2 percent cost-of-living raise that will go into effect on Jan. 1.

The minimum wage for private employers in Missouri is $10.30 an hour, scheduled to increase to $11.15 an hour on Jan. 1.

Missouri had a budget surplus of almost $4 billion in early November and the trend for state finances indicates that excess will only grow during the remainder of the fiscal year. State revenues for the first five months of the fiscal year are 0.7 percent lower than through the first five months of fiscal 2021, much better than January estimates of a 4 percent decline.

Parson vetoed plans for pay raises in three agencies – the Department of Conservation, the Children’s Division of the Department of Social Services and the Commission on the Retirement, Removal and Discipline of Judges – from this year’s budget. When he took that action, he wrote that raises should come after “a comprehensive pay evaluation.”

Parson did approve raises above the general pay plan for the Department of Corrections, which has heavy turnover and difficulty recruiting new correctional officers.

Those raises, ranging from 3 to 13 percent, helped spur a burst of applications, the Jefferson City News-Tribune reported in August. 

One agency where many employees would see raises if lawmakers go along with Parson’s proposal is the Department of Mental Health. On Monday, that agency was offering just under $15 an hour to applicants for behavioral health technician jobs and a little under $13 an hour to applicants to be education assistants.

“Our direct care and front line staff often make less than entry-level retail positions,” Parson said in the release. “These public servants have tough jobs and rarely receive the thanks they deserve, and communities all across the state rely on them everyday.”

The release included support from the top two budget writers in the Legislature. 

“I recognize the urgency and support an early supplemental,” House Budget Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, said.

The state needs to address pay rates that rank Missouri employees among the lowest paid in the country, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, said.

“This pay plan proposal will raise the minimum base pay, reduce pay compression, and ensure Missouri is able to recruit and retain talented and dedicated public servants,” he said in the release.

The pay plan is intended to help state employees keep up with inflation and to recognize that personal income for private sector workers is also growing, the release stated.

Prices for consumers in the Midwest are up 6.4 percent for the year, the release stated, and personal income has increased by 8.3 percent.

This article by Rudi Keller is published from The Missouri Independent through a Creative Commons license.

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