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Parson recommends wage increases for state employees

Gov. Mike Parson’s recommended budget will include a wage increase for state government employees, his office said Monday. 

The Republican chief executive’s budget will include a cost of living adjustment (COLA) and $15 minimum wage for the workers, an effort his office said was to build and retain the state’s workforce. 

The recommendation will include a 5.5 percent COLA for all state workers and funds to address compression between pay levels when the minimum pay increase takes effect. The requests will be part of the governor’s supplemental request at the beginning of 2022 and will be subject to appropriation by the legislature.  

The recommendation would cost $91 million, including $52 million from general revenue. Parson’s office said the request would be introduced at the beginning of session with the goal of final passage by the end of January. 

“With many positions across state government facing turnover rates anywhere from 10-100 percent and vacancy rates from 30-100 percent, it is past time for us to make these investments in our state workforce, which remains one of the lowest paid in the nation,” Parson said. “Our direct care and front line staff often make less than entry-level retail positions. These public servants have tough jobs and rarely receive the thanks they deserve, and communities all across the state rely on them every day.”

Parson said highway workers, residential aids for vulnerable children, and veterans’ home care attendants were among the lowest-paid workers in the state. The recommended increases would be critical investments, Parson said. 

The chairs of the House Budget and Senate Appropriations committees voiced their support for the recommendation, pointing to the need to retain essential services. 

“Despite regular pay increases, Missouri’s state employees continue to rank among the lowest paid in the country,” Senate Appropriations Chair Dan Hegeman said. “This pay plan proposal will raise the minimum base pay, reduce pay compression, and ensure Missouri is able to recruit and retain talented and dedicated public servants.”

State lawmakers weren’t alone in their support of the move: Kansas City Quinton Lucas applauded the recommendation, noting similar challenges in the private sector.

The recommendation was based on the Midwest Consumer Price Index, the Employment Cost Index, World at Work salary increase surveys, and personal income indicators. 

The FY 2023 budget request will include another 5.5 percent COLA increase, according to Parson’s office. 

State employees are already set to see a 2 percent COLA at the start of the year as part of the budget passed by the legislature this year.