JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Could Missouri’s state workers, the lowest paid in the nation, finally see some sort of raise?
The short and uncomplicated answer here is yes, they technically could.
That’s because one of the recommendations in Gov. Eric Greitens’ budget calls for a one-time bonus of $650 for each state worker making $50,000 or less.
In addition to the pay plan, the Governor’s recommendations also call for $61.2 million in new funding to the state’s share of employee health care benefits, as well as $14.4 million more to fully fund the contribution rate for the state’s primary employee pension system.
In a Wednesday hearing of the House Budget Committee, Office of Administration Commissioner Sarah Steelman said that the proposed pay plan was estimated to affect more than 45,000 state workers or roughly 82 percent of the workforce.
The plan would cost an estimated $29.4 million, but would only go into effect “if the Missouri legislature enacts critical reforms to the state civil service system — to ensure that we can move employees to where they help the most, reward the best for superior performance, and take rapid action against those who fail our citizens and their colleagues.”
One such item that officials have suggested needs reform is the Missouri Merit System. Many of the state agencies and other divisions utilize the system, which according to the state is “designed to protect employees from arbitrary actions, personal favoritism, and political coercion.”
Civil service reform has been one of the topics that Greitens has long discussed, and in his first year as governor, he has led the way to change how the state does business. One such change is how employee performance is assessed. In the past, supervisors gave formal, annual evaluations, but now they have been instructed to have less formal conversations with their employees on a monthly basis.
In theory, by reforming civil service, the state could become a more flexible machine and better reward its employees for their work. But the same could be said about firing employees, too.
“OA is kind of the engine of government, and we need to tune things up to run better,” Steelman told the House Budget Committee. ‘We need to have some MERIT system reform and make it more flexible and hold employees more accountable, and pay them, reward them for what is being done.
Rep. Justin Alferman noted that such a proposed pay plan, contingent upon reform, might be easier said than done.
“That’s going to need a statutory change, and therein lies my problem,” he said. “I tend to think that some members of this committee and the Senate are going to have problems basing numbers off of a statutory change.”
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.