Missouri state employee pay raise advances with vote on spending bill

Everyone on the state payroll except lawmakers and statewide elected officials would receive a boost of 8.7% under bill given first-round approval.

By: - February 9, 2023 4:05 pm

The Missouri House chamber during the 2022 legislative session (Tim Bommel/Missouri House Communications).

State employees are one step closer to receiving their biggest raise in years — perhaps ever — after the Missouri House gave first-round approval Thursday to a $627 million supplemental appropriations bill.

The nearly unanimous vote, with only two Republicans voting against the bill, shows the plan for across-the-board 8.7% raises has broad support. The only people on the state payroll excluded from the raises would be legislators and statewide elected officials.

The bill also increases the night differential for employees in facilities housing people entrusted to the state’s custody for imprisonment or care. Those employees would get $2 an hour for night shifts, up from the current 30 cents per hour.

The pay raises for state employees will use $183.3 million of the money appropriated in the bill for additional spending before the fiscal year ends June 30.

The bill needs a final House vote next week to send it to the Senate. When Gov. Mike Parson asked for the raises in January, he asked for the funding to be approved in time for the raises to be included in paychecks issued in March.

The debate was uneventful, with just two amendments proposed and only one approved.

The passed amendment, from Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, adjusted an increase in House contingency funds to add $250,000 instead of the previous plan for adding $325,000. The extra funding will add $50 to each House member’s monthly office expense allowance, previously $700.

The House defeated an amendment offered by Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Manchester, to use surplus money in a Department of Mental Health fund to add $72.8 million to spending on home- and community-based services for people with disabilities.

The money was intended to increase rates paid to contract providers to help them attract staff, Lavender said.

“We are in the game of playing catchup now,” she said.

Smith, however, opposed the amendment and he brought the Republican majority with him. He said state accounts used to handle federal matching funds had accumulated large balances, and promised to work with Lavender to determine how much could be used.

But, he said, he didn’t want it on the supplemental bill designed to handle the immediate needs of state government.

“I cannot support making increases to ongoing programs with one-time funds, without a plan to come back and pay for that in an ongoing way,” Smith said.

The other major items in the bill are $286.5 million, including $11.5 million of state general revenue, for the State Emergency Management Agency to match and use federal disaster recovery funds, and $20 million for school safety grants.

With clear signals from the Senate that the state employee pay raises will win easy approval, the only possible point of contention will be if it restores the $287,000 to give raises to elected officials.

At a news conference after the vote, House Speaker Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, said he heard no grumbling from rank-and-file members over losing the raise, which would have added about $3,280 to legislative salaries of $37,711.

“I would not be surprised if that gets thrown back in (during Senate debate),” Plocher said, “but we’ll tackle that if it does.”

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget and the legislature. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he spent 22 of his 32 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics for the Columbia Daily Tribune, where he won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.