Missouri Republican Governor Mike Parson is asking for a 3 percent across the board raise for state workers in his budget request for the upcoming fiscal year.

The governor released his spending plan during his State of the State address to a joint gathering of the Missouri House and Senate in Jefferson City Wednesday afternoon.

In addition to the pay increase, about 4,000 state employees will see an upward adjustment to bring their wages closer in line with private sector pay for comparable jobs.  State Budget Director Dan Haug said the adjustment was made after a recent study revealed certain state jobs pay far below market value.

According to a 2017 study commissioned by the state, Missouri has the lowest paid employees of all 50 states in the country with cash compensation at 12.6 percent below market value.

The state is also using $15 million it’s realizing from the consolidation of prisons to boost low pay within the Department of Corrections.  The Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, the site of an inmate riot last September, is closing and its staff and inmates are being transferred to the nearby Western Missouri Correctional Center.  Haug said there would not be any employee reductions and no offenders would be released early as a result of the consolidation.

Among the other highlights in the governor’s recommendations is a $351 million outlay of money for infrastructure upgrades.  Those dollars will primarily be used to pay for repairs to 250 bridges statewide in need of critical repair or replacement.  Many members from both parties in the legislature have expressed frustration with a lack of transportation funding after voters resoundingly rejected a ballot measure to raise the motor fuel tax by 10 cents a gallon over four years to fund roads.

The state will have to pay back $30 million in debt service for the bonds for 15 years.  Haug said the investment is sound because the bridges being repaired have a 50-year life span, and because Missouri’s triple-A credit rating will bring favorable financing of the bonds.

Governor Parson’s recommendation calls for the state’s operating budget to increase by roughly $1 billion from $28.8 billion to $29.8 billion, a figure which includes federal money and other sources of funding.  Parson is asking for an increase of roughly $300 million to the general revenue fund from $9.9 billion to $10.2 billion.  The legislature allocates money for state programs and services with general revenue money.

The governor has also pledged to fully fund Missouri’s education foundation formula at $3.55 billion, an increase from the $3.49 billion from the current fiscal year.  Money for higher education will remain flat under the governor’s spending plan, although he’s asked for $20 million to cover deferred maintenance at the state’s four-year institutions.

Parson has asked for $5 million to expand rural broadband internet access through grants.

In addition, he’s called for a roughly $300 million increase in the state’s Medicaid program. Roughly 64 percent of the low-income health care program is funded with federal money.  Missouri’s contribution in the next fiscal year will rise from $2.1 billion to 2.4 billion.

Budget Director Haug noted there have been $50 million in savings in the program as the Medicaid-funded managed care system has 100,000 fewer enrollees.  Haug attributed the downsizing to an improved economy with more people gaining employment.

Further recommendations from the governor include setting aside $116.7 million for unexpected budget emergencies.  Haug said it marks the first time since Republican Governor Matt Blunt’s administration (2005-2009) that the state has held back from spending all the money in its budget.  In addition, $182.9 million in targeted budget cuts are being made by finding efficiencies.

The governor is also calling for 436 full-time state jobs to be eliminated through retirements and attrition, with no employee layoffs.  The proposed state employee pay increase would take effect on January 1, 2020.

Governor Parson’s budget recommendations head to lawmakers for consideration. The governor has many political allies in the legislature since it’s controlled by a supermajority of fellow Republicans.

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