Some state lawmakers want to exempt legislators and elected officials from a proposed pay increase.

Representative Jay Barnes (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Jay Barnes (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The budget being debated now would raise all state employees’ pay two-percent. Many legislators support that and Republican leaders called in the fall for an increase, noting that Missouri state employee salaries are in most categories the lowest or nearly the lowest among all states.

Some Republicans, including Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City), think lawmakers and statewide elected officials shouldn’t be included.

“While ordinary state employees are in need of a pay increase because they’re dead last in the country, politicians in this state are paid plenty of money,” Barnes told Missourinet. “I’m going to offer an amendment to reject the politician pay increase.”

Barnes notes that the legislature voted last year to reject a pay increase for elected officials. A citizens’ commission had proposed a 17-percent increase for most office holders and an 11-percent increase for the Lieutenant Governor and legislators. At that time it was noted that Missouri legislators’ pay ranked 16th highest in the country.

“There’s a big difference between pay for elected officials and for ordinary state employees,” said Barnes.

The proposal as it stands would apply the increase to statewide elected officials, such as the Governor and the State Auditor, beginning July 1, but would not kick in for legislators until January 1, meaning the current members of the General Assembly would not benefit from it unless they are reelected.

Senate Budget Committee chairman Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) says that raises a different issue.

“So any statewide elected who is on their way out would get the pay increase, and for example that would count on their retirement calculation, but anyone in the General Assembly at the same time on July 1, it would not count for theirs even though they’re going out by the end of the year,” Schaefer points out.

Acting state budget director Dan Haug said the difference in start dates is because of the state constitution. It doesn’t allow the legislature to pass a pay increase for itself that is effective before the start of the session following that passage.

Senator Schaefer said he also wants to have a discussion about whether the governor can recommend a pay increase for the legislature without the recommendation of the citizens’ commission.

The chairmen of the House Budget Committee and the House Appropriations committee that deals with the budget bill that includes the pay increase say they’re still considering the issue.   Senator Schaefer could not be reached for comment for this story.