Republican Governor Eric Greitens budget proposal calls for a pay raise for state employees. The wage hike is also meant to be an annually occurring event.
But the boost for the country’s lowest paid state workers seems to come with qualifiers. In a statement accompanying the release of the budget, the governor’s office indicated pay hikes would be linked to job performance.
The statement said, “We have begun to transform the state workforce’s annual review process to provide greater flexibility and eventually rewards for high performance.”
The budget call for $29.4 million in new funding to provide a $650 salary increase for all state employees making $50,000 or less.
Republican Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Dan Brown is baffled by the governor’s instructions for lawmakers to achieve the pay raise.
“It says this funding will be provided if the Missouri legislature enacts critical reforms to the state civil service system,” said Brown. “And quickly frankly I don’t know what the hell does that mean? Because we don’t know.”
In a Thursday news conference with reporters, Brown said the governor’s office and state Budget Director Dan Haug had provided little guidance in how lawmakers were to change the civil service system. “Right now, they don’t have any language, which for me is putting the cart before the horse, a little bit.”
Brown did stipulate that Governor Greitens expects changes to be made to the state’s “merit system”.
According to the state Office of Administration, the Missoiuri Merit System supplies the examination process to recruit and retain workers and determine promotions, transfers, layoffs and discipline of employees. The merit personnel system is also designed to protect employees from arbitrary actions, personal favoritism, and political coercion.
The Springfield News-Leader reported earlier this week that the governor’s office referred it to civil service reform enacted in Indiana under former Governor Mitch Daniels.
Interestingly, Daniels, who served two-terms from 2005-2013, was, like Greitens, elected in his first run for public office. Daniels, however worked for many years as a political operative in the Republican Party.
As reported in the News-Leader, Princeton University researcher Michael Scharf detailed how Daniels, in a cost cutting initiative, ended collective bargaining for state workers through an executive order and created a performance based pay system to encourage state workers to focus on results.
Missouri’s constitution guarantees the right of both public and private sector workers to organize and to bargain collectively. There are currently measures in the state legislature to simplify the path for public workers to leave unions, but the state guarantee to organize has not been challenged.
Under Daniels, Indiana’s state workforce was reduced by 20%, largely through retirements. The budget presentation from Greitens’ office emphasizes that the state workforce will be reduced through retirements and other reforms “as the government focuses its programs on core government responsibilities”
Brown, the Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman, indicated the legislature could pass the governor’s suggested $650 pay raise without changing the civil service system.
“If we believe in these things as a committee, if we appropriate the money, the money should be there,” Brown said. “That doesn’t mean if don’t do what the governor’s got in mind with revamping the merit system, he can line item (veto) I guess, but then we will also have opportunity to veto override as well.”
Brown said the pay raise would show up as a $29.4 million increase in funding for state employees this year, and then would subsequently become a part of core language that would bring the $650 wage hike annually.
A 2017 compensation and benefits study commissioned by the state found average pay for Missouri state workers in $39,682.
The governor’s budget proposal also recommends $61.2 million in new funding to finance the state’s share of employee health care benefits.