JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri state employees will notice a pay rise as early as next month after the governor approved a multibillion-dollar budget on Thursday.
Nearly half of this $4.5 billion budget goes to schools alone. It also fully funds Missouri’s Medicaid program for the remainder of 2022 and includes money needed to provide a pay raise for the state’s 50,000 employees.
“We were supposed to do this before February 1,” said Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis. “Let’s do it today.”
In the first bill signed by the governor this year, the mid-year emergency budget includes a 5.5% cost-of-living adjustment for all state employees.
“Right now, we’re fighting to retain employees,” said Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby. “If we can get him in faster now, then maybe we’ll keep the employees we just lost to the market because we weren’t at the market rate.”
Missouri has the lowest-paid state workers in the nation, which is why Governor Mike Parson has recommended a 5.5% cost-of-living adjustment and a minimum wage of $15 an hour.
The House passed the legislation earlier this month. Their version only wanted to give workers in direct care positions $15 an hour. In the Senate, members want to allow departments to decide on an employee’s salary, which eventually passed.
“I mean either you’re going to be competitive in the marketplace or you’re not going to find people to work with,” said Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence. “This is a long overdue pay raise for state employees.”
Unlike the governor’s proposal, lawmakers passed a bill with no increase in the minimum bet, like the $15 requested by Parson, but the budget includes the millions of dollars needed for agencies to achieve it. Instead, it will be left to individual departments.
“It is not my intention for the state government to place state labor at an unfair competitive advantage over private employers,” said Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage. “This allows them, throughout the credit allocation process, to make necessary adjustments as needed.”
Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe previously told the House Budget Committee that he saw state employees at grocery stores in Jefferson City paying with food stamps.
State Budget Director Dan Haug previously told the committee that there were more than 4,000 job openings across the state government. Those working for the state received a 2% raise at the start of the year, but Parson said the only way to be competitive is to have a higher salary.
Haug also told the committee last month that across all departments in the state, the turnover rate was 26%. He said the industry standard is 10%.
The minimum wage for private employers in Missouri in 2022 is $11.15, up from $10.21 last year. Through 2023, the state minimum wage will increase by 85 cents.
Over the summer, the governor vetoed $2.1 million that was supposed to be used to raise wages for workers in the Missouri Department of Social Services Children’s Division. In his veto letter, Parson said lawmakers shouldn’t pick a specific agency for a pay raise.
According to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) website, there are hundreds of job postings. Before the onset of winter, MoDOT warned drivers to be patient during the winter, as the department was short of employees to clear the roads.
Department director Patrick McKenna said in an interview last fall that MoDOT needs 200 to 300 seasonal workers for the winter months, but they’re nowhere near that.
House Bill 3014, which totals about $5 billion, also includes about $2 billion for schools and another billion for the state’s Medicaid program. If the money had not been allocated by March 24, the state could have lost that federal money.
“We heard from schools yesterday that were lacking their authority over food money for school lunches,” Merideth said. “They need that money and they needed it yesterday.”
What sparked a debate in the Senate on Wednesday night came from a budget item. No money is allocated to facilities like Planned Parenthood to provide services to Missourians on Medicaid.
“Even though this state has already, for all intents and purposes, absolutely stopped funding abortion services, the fact that we are now moving to reproductive health services, now including funding for people who want access to birth control , where does it end,” said Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur. “Where does this take us?”
The state has already gone to court on a similar issue, and the judges ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood. The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee said he assumed it would come back to court.
“In my mind, the courts have given us conflicting information and ways to solve this problem, and we are trying again to show the will of the people expressed through their senators and elected representatives that they do not want that taxpayers’ money go to organizations that support or provide abortion services.
Planned Parenthood said Thursday after the bill passed that it would continue to provide services to Medicaid patients until the Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS) blocks them.
In a statement, the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis and Southwestern Missouri Region said:
“To Every Medicaid Patient in Missouri: Nothing Changes. Planned Parenthood’s doors are open and we will take care of you regardless of your ability to pay. To Governor Parson: Your next decision could land you in court. Again.”
This makes Missouri the fourth state after Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas to “defund” Planned Parenthood, the organization said.
Rizzo said Democrats have made their voices heard, but the overall package has top priorities for them.
“Even if there’s a fundamental value in there that we don’t agree with, we think the courts are going to throw it out and the other things are very important to us as well,” Rizzo said. “I’m having a hard time figuring out which one of them hasn’t been a Democratic priority for the past ten years.”
The budget totals more than $4.5 billion, including $401 million in general revenue, $4.1 billion in federal funds and $45 million in other funds. Here is an overview of the breakdown:
- A statewide compensation plan for state team members, including a 5.5% cost of living adjustment
- $1.9 billion for distribution to local public school districts
- Nearly $100 million for distribution to non-public schools
- $444 million for childcare services
- $219 million for school feeding programs
- Funding for MO HealthNet, including funding to ensure eligibility reassessments are completed in a timely manner
Shortly after it passed the House and Senate, Parson signed the budget into law on Thursday afternoon.
“This bill not only gives the dedicated members of our state team a long-awaited pay raise, but also earmarks critical funding for our K-12 schools and child care system,” said Parson in a press release. “We thank the General Assembly for working to get this important piece of legislation passed and on my desk.”
State employees could see this increase on their first salary in March.
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