JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Lawmakers are closer to giving state workers a pay raise, but under what was approved Monday, not all employees will see more money in their paycheck.
Gov. Mike Parson requested members of the General Assembly to increase all state employees’ wages to $15 an hour. He asked for the legislation to be passed and on his desk by Feb. 1. Instead, members of the House Budget Committee voted only to give workers in frontline positions that raise.
“The total in the House Committee Substitute is a little bit less than what the governor requested,” Chairman of the budget committee Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, said. “The intent here is to deliver $15 an hour baseline wage to direct care workers at agencies who are caring for people through state government.”
Missouri employs more than 50,000 state workers, and they are among the lowest-paid in the nation. Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe told the committee Monday he has seen state employees in the grocery store in the Jefferson City area that have had to use food stamps.
“I’m a conservative, small business guy. I hate taxes,” Kehoe said. “I hate throwing money at things just to solve problems, but our state employees need to have an adjustment and that’s my opinion.”
The governor’s proposal includes a 5.5% cost-of-living adjustment and $15 an hour minimum pay. Those increases are expected to cost $91 million this year and $218 next year, but under the legislation approved Monday, only frontline workers will see that of an increase.
“It would be an unfair advantage to artificially inflate the state workforce wage for those minimum wage jobs where they don’t necessarily need to be paying $15 an hour for a $12 an hour job,” Smith said.
The pay raises are in the $5.3 billion supplemental bill, which also has billions of federal dollars for public schools and money for Medicaid.
State budget director Dan Haug previously told the committee there are more than 4,000 job openings across state government. Those working for the state received a 2% raise at the start of the year, but Parson said the only way to be competitive is with a higher wage. He said he hopes lawmakers would pass the request and have it on his desk by Feb. 1, but that deadline has come and gone.
“We’re hearing from departments that if this raise doesn’t go into effect, they’ve got people ready to quit now that have only been holding off on the promise that they are going to get a couple buck-an-hour bump in their pay,” said Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis.
Instead, in a 22-8 vote, only employees working in “direct care” roles or agencies like the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) or at the state’s veterans’ homes would receive that raise. The remaining state workers, a 5.5% increase and setting the base pay at $12 an hour.
“Instead of those people getting what the governor suggested, which was upwards of a 20% raise at the bottom, we’re only going to give them, if they’re making $12 an hour right now, you’re only going to get a 5.5% pay raise,” Merideth said.
Haug also told the committee last month, across all state departments, the turnover rate is 26%. He said the industry standard is 10%.
“The opportunity to at least raise our state’s employees’ wages where they maybe have a couple more dollars in their pockets, where they don’t have to rob Peter to pay Paul, and you’re talking about the hardest working men and women of this state, that keep his state running,” said Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis.