A view of the Missouri Senate chamber from the visitors gallery (photo courtesy of the Missouri Senate).
All that is needed for Missouri state employees to receive their biggest pay raise in decades is a signature from Gov. Mike Parson.
The Missouri Senate voted 29-4 Wednesday to approve a $627 million supplemental spending bill that will add 8.7% to paychecks issued in March as well as boost the night differential for workers in 24-hour state facilities to $2 an hour from the current 30 cents.
The only opposition came from conservative Republicans who decried the growth of employment and spending in state government in recent years. The raises will go to everyone who receives a state paycheck except lawmakers, statewide elected officials and judges.
Parson asked in January for lawmakers to approve the raises in time for the money to be added to paychecks issued at the end of March. The vote Wednesday ensures that the deadline will be met.
The bill is the first in this year’s session to pass both chambers.
The raises, which will cost about $145 million for the remainder of the year including increases to retirement contributions, are needed to hold on to state employees, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, said during Wednesday’s debate.
In the fiscal year that ended June 30, every department of state government struggled to remain fully staffed. Only 87.5% of budgeted jobs were filled and agencies that house and care for veterans and mental patients, as well as juvenile and adult offenders, are battling high turnover and inadequate staffing.
“Every department that has testified in front of our appropriations committee has talked about the struggle to keep, retain or recruit employees for those positions,” Hough said.
The raise, equal to the cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security recipients, builds on another large raise approved last year. After providing a 2% bump initially in last year’s budget, lawmakers added 5.5% in a supplemental budget that also set the base wage for state jobs at $15 an hour.
The state is struggling to compete with rising wages in private employment and for years Missouri has been ranked near the bottom of states for public worker wages.
“I hope this is the first step of many to get us on the right track,” said state Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City.
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