December 20, 2014

State employee wages committee continues meeting

A joint House-Senate committee is continuing its work to address state employee compensation. State employees received a 2-percent across-the-board raise in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget, but the Joint Interim Committee on State Employee Wages is thinking more long-term.

Representative Mike Bernskoetter (rear, center) listens as a consulting firm makes its pitch to be the company to study the compensation offered to state employees.

The Committee heard on Monday a presentation from Buck Consultants, a company that wants the job of evaluating current state employee pay and benefits compared to other states and private businesses. Senator Mike Kehoe (R-Jefferson City) told Buck’s representatives what he sees as the Committee’s goals.

“We would like to get to a solution that is a 10 or 15 year plan on how somebody could enter the workforce in the state and where they could go with that, with the proper levels of performance.”

He also says the group wants to reduce complexity in the current pay plan. “There’s a few people in the room that have been doing it forever and they know it like the back of their hand, but it’s very hard for policymakers or citizens or employees themselves to really understand exactly how it works, and I would like to see us at the end of the day figure out a way to reduce complexity.”

Chairman, Representative┬áMike Bernskoetter (R-Jefferson City) says the last time pay and benefits were studied was 1984. He says that’s too long ago. “It’s hurting the morale of state employees that they’re not getting paid a comparable salary to other states and other private employers.”

Bernskoetter says the goal in pay would be, “to get us in the area where our cost of living compares to the other states. If our cost of living in Missouri is say, thirty-fifth, then I think our employee benefit package should be somewhere comparable to that. That’s my theory on the whole thing.”

As for how a consulting firm will be paid, Bernskoetter says nothing has been put in the state budget for it but other agencies have offered to step up. “The Chamber of Commerce has showed an interest in putting some money into research like that. Hopefully we can get some money in the budget but if we can’t, we’ve got other options.”

Three more consulting firms will offer presentations to the Committee at its hearing November 13, and Bernskoetter says it needs to come up with a mission statement and a request for proposal.