JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Prominent House Republicans have called for Gov. Jay Nixon to work with the legislature to raise wages for state employees.
House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, and House Budget Chairman Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, both asked the governor for a bipartisan arrangement effort to find revenue streams already existing within the state so as to bolster the paychecks of the lowest-paid state employees in the United States.
“We have continued to downsize the size of government and ask our employees to find ways to do more with less, which they have done while working as the lowest-paid state employees in the nation,” Flanigan said. “Looking ahead to next year’s budget, the potential exists to fund our top priorities while also making an increased investment in our state workforce. My hope is that the governor will work with us to create a fiscally responsible spending plan that will provide a necessary pay raise for our state employees.”
While fiscal responsibility has always been touted as part of the Republican platform, spending taxpayer money has not. However, due to higher than expected revenues for the state, Flanigan and Richardson believe that these changes can be made without raising taxes. Richardson believes it’s a necessary change.
“As the only state in the nation with an average yearly salary under $40,000, it is clear we must begin to take steps to adequately compensate the Missourians who work so diligently as state employees,” Richardson said in a statement. “We can’t make up the significant pay gap that exists in one budget, but if the governor actively works with us, I know we can find the revenues necessary to provide better compensation for our state workers.”
Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, joined the chorus of Republican voices, stating that increasing state employee wages would help retain talent in Missouri.
“We cannot continue down the same path, causing our state employees to be put on the back burner.” Engler said. “Missouri should not settle for 50 out of 50, and looking ahead to next year’s budget, the potential exists to fund our top priorities while also making an increased investment in our state workforce.”
Rep. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, has a large population of state workers in his district and applauded the move.
“As the governor has continued to cut the size of our state workforce, we have in turn had to ask our workers to do more with less,” said Bernskoetter. “At the same time we have failed to compensate them for their efforts and Missouri now has the distinction of having the lowest-paid state employees in the nation. If we want to attract and retain a talented and dedicated workforce, we must find a way to pay them a competitive wage. I am pleased to see Speaker Richardson and Chairman Flanigan propose this plan, and hopeful the governor will now work with the legislature to push a much-needed, substantive pay increase across the finish line and into effect.”
This development would be welcome news for state employees around Missouri, who just four months ago rallied at the Capitol in opposition to a zero percent pay increase in the FY2016 budget.
A study last year by the American Enterprise Institute found that while public sector workers are usually paid less than their private sector counterparts, the added benefits that come with a public sector job make up for the cost – sometimes too well.
“This standard for setting public-sector compensation tends to result in an efficient provision of government services and is intuitively fair to public workers,” the study reads. “If a state offers below-market compensation to its workers, the state may have difficulty attracting and retaining the workers it needs. By contrast, paying above-market compensation to public employees imposes a needless cost on taxpayers.”
A spokesman for the governor said Nixon has not yet made decisions on the FY2017 budget.