The Senate Appropriations Chairman says some of the money Governor Jay Nixon (D) and the state House proposed adding to the budget for the state Children’s Division might make the final legislative budget plan.
The Senate Budget Committee didn’t follow the proposal to add $4.6-million to pay for increases to the career ladder for child abuse investigators and the creation of two new levels of caseworkers, more technology upgrades, and student loan forgiveness.
The Senate is working through the budget now and once it is done, some of its members will confer with counterparts in the House to arrive at a final proposal to send to Governor Nixon.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) says he’s open to possibly restoring the dollars for the technology upgrades, that would include giving caseworkers internet-enabled I-Pads and WiFi service to expedite filing of and retrieval of information in child abuse investigations.
“We see a lot of proposals in the state budget that if you just put more money into technology we’ll fix all these problems,” says Schaefer, “just because we put the money there doesn’t mean it’s going to solve anything. I have had some discussions along the lines of the I-Pad proposal, though, and I do think that probably is one that is probably worth looking at in [budget conference with the House].”
Deputy Director of Missouri Kids First Emily van Schenkhof says she hopes the proposed boost in pay can also become part of the budget the legislature will propose.
“Right now there is no incentive for someone who is a really good investigator to stay in the trenches and doing this work,” says van Schenkhof. “They can make more money as a supervisor and they can make more money in private industry. As a result of that we see incredibly high turnover in front line workers because this work is hard. It’s extremely hard. It’s not well compensated.”
Schaefer says doesn’t think the pay increase received enough study by legislators this year and doesn’t fit in with the recommendations of the Personnel Advisory Board.