Whenever discussion of raising pay for state employees comes up at the State Capitol, one group that often comes up is corrections officers.

Missouri Department of Corrections (courtesy Wikipedia Commons)

The Missouri Department of Corrections (courtesy Wikipedia Commons)

House Republicans are calling for using improved state revenue to support a pay increase in the next budget, and some of them say a long-term plan must be set in motion to get Missouri off the bottom of state worker pay, nationally.

The Missouri Corrections Officers Association says its membership is an example of that low pay rate. Executive Director Gary Gross says some prison guards hire on in Missouri long enough to train, and then move out-of-state where they can make significantly more for the same job.

“That does happen in the eastern side of the state and the northern side of the state,” Gross told Missourinet. “Illinois’ and Iowa’s pay far exceeds what Missouri corrections officers make.”

Gross also echoes what some Republicans told Missourinet: state pay isn’t competing with the private sector.

“Certainly if someone can go get a better paying job in private industry, they’re going to, and I think a lot of that is what’s occurring,” said Gross.

Of 50 states and territories that reported on October 1, only three offer a lower starting salary than Missouri, but Gross says Missouri advances its officers up the pay scale slowly so its overall corrections staff remains lowest paid.

“Often you hear the cost of living is less in Missouri and that’s part of it, but that’s more of an excuse than anything,” said Gross.

State lawmakers have told Missourinet that rather than aim to have Missouri’s workers paid the most in the nation, they would like to see it somewhere in the middle. Gross wants the same for corrections officers.

“If they could just get corrections officers’ pay up to somewhere in the middle, it would be a huge improvement,” said Gross.

There are approximately 8,510 corrections officers and jailers in Missouri.