One of the lowest paid state workforces in the nation could soon be getting a boost in pay.
For all Missouri state workers, Gov. Mike Parson is asking for:
*A 5.5% cost of living adjustment
*A $15/hr minimum base pay
*Increases to address compression issues between pay grades after the base pay would increase to $15 per hour
A news release from the Governor’s Office says the recommendation will be included next month in Parson’s supplemental budget request, which asks the Missouri Legislature for additional funding to cover state expenses.
“With many positions across state government facing turnover rates anywhere from 10-100 percent and vacancy rates from 30-100 percent, it is past time for us to make these investments in our state workforce, which remains one of the lowest paid the nation,” Parson says. “Our direct care and front line staff often make less than entry-level retail positions. These public servants have tough jobs and rarely receive the thanks they deserve, and communities all across the state rely on them everyday.”
Missouri has about 50,000 state workers.
Parson’s plan would cost $91 million – $52 million would come from general revenue. The governor says his goal is to get legislative approval early and have the changes begin on February 1.
Two state agencies who are ecstatic about the news are the Missouri Departments of Corrections and Mental Health. They have had a problem with filling positions, especially during the pandemic. They are also two of the state agencies with employees who work in some of the most dangerous settings day in and day out.
Karen Pojmann, spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Corrections, tells Missourinet she thinks the pay increase would move the Department in the right direction.
“Like everybody else, we have a staffing shortage. But in the prison system and probation and parole, it can be a serious problem because it affects the safety of the people in our facilities and the safety of the community. So, the more we can do to make sure everyone is paid appropriately for the hard work they do, the better off we are,” says Pojmann.
Pojmann says specific classes of Corrections staff received pay increases this past July. The classes were for jobs in critical need of being filled, such as food service workers, corrections officers, lieutenants and sergeants. The pay boosts ranged from about 5.8% to roughly 15%.
“Until recently, we were losing staff faster than we are gaining new staff. That has changed, especially since the other pay raise went into effect back in July. So now we’re starting to see a real shift and we’re starting to attract more staff that are losing,” she says.
Pojmann says there has been a tremendous increase in the salary for corrections officers over the last five years. In 2017, the starting salary for a correctional officer I was $29,000. If this new pay raise goes into effect, she says it’ll be up to $37,980 – a 30% increase over the past five years.
As for the Missouri Department of Mental Health, Debra Walker, Director of Public Affairs, tells Missourinet she is hopeful the pay boost would help the Department to compete with area employers.
“I believe that we have people who begin with the department who currently, are only making 11-something an hour. So, this would be a significant increase per hour for those frontline workers,” says Walker. “It’s been extremely difficult to retain and to recruit workers for our psychiatric hospitals as well as our habilitation centers and state-operated programs. The turnover rate is definitely something that we have needed to address for some time and we’re hopeful that this will be a turning point.”
Walker says the St. Louis area and the state’s only high-security psychiatric hospital in Fulton have some of the highest turnover rates.
“The people who we are entrusted to care for are vulnerable people but sometimes they are also dangerous people. It is not an easy job,” she says. “So, we are again truly grateful for this compensation.”
The Missouri Legislature’s budget leaders appear to be on board with Parson’s recommendation.
“I recognize the urgency and support an early supplemental,” Missouri House of Representatives Budget Committee Chair Cody Smith says. “This will ensure that the state is able to retain talented employees who will continue providing essential services to the citizens of our state.”
“Despite regular pay increases, Missouri’s state employees continue to rank among the lowest paid in the country,” Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Dan Hegeman says. “This pay plan proposal will raise the minimum base pay, reduce pay compression, and ensure Missouri is able to recruit and retain talented and dedicated public servants.”
Parson says his Fiscal Year 2023 pay plan proposal includes a similar 5.5% cost of living adjustment recommendation and totals $218 million, including $123 million in general revenue. The new fiscal year begins next July.
The Missouri Legislature will get down to business on the governor’s budget proposals after lawmakers return to Jefferson City in January.
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