Missouri Senate committee restores funding for state worker raises — no minimum set
Updated at 4:08 p.m. Feb. 16 with comments from Democrats
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday restored around $7 million to a plan to give state employees in Missouri raises without setting a minimum wage.
The restoration backs Gov. Mike Parson’s original proposal for raises but eliminates the mention of a baseline wage, allowing departments to decide the new minimum. Parson’s original plan created a $15-an-hour minimum.
“As we have in the past, let the market decide what a baseline wage should be, whatever we need to get. And so the funding that we’ve had, that was recommended, would allow us to move to the governor’s recommendation,” said Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby.
The modified supplemental budget bill, which senators on the committee passed with a bipartisan vote of 11-2, is a rejection of the plan the House advanced last week. Under that bill, two minimum wages would be established, with some employees earning a $15-an-hour baseline depending on their job, while others would get $12.
That removed millions of dollars for workers’ wages, with the bulk of the money coming from workers earning less than $15 an hour who would not have qualified for the higher minimum wage based on their job.
House Budget Committee Chair Cody Smith, R-Carthage, argued that many of the jobs that would have paid $12 an hour were positions that didn’t have high skill or education requirements.
Democrats criticized the modified House plan, including many from the House Budget Committee, who said they’ve heard testimony from multiple state departments that could not recruit or retain employees due to low wages.
Both the House and Senate plans keep the 5.5% cost-of-living adjustment for all state employees, which Parson also had in his initial proposal.
Sen. Karla May, D-St. Louis, joined the other Democrats on the committee in voting to restore the funding. May said she expects pushback from the House on the Senate’s changes.
“But we are the upper chamber,” she said.
In addition, the Senate committee on Wednesday eliminated funding for a $75 million program that would have addressed learning loss during the pandemic.
Hegeman initially proposed reducing the program, but several lawmakers, such as Sen. Karla Eslinger, R-Wasola, advocated eliminating it from this budget bill.
“It just seems like we’re doing something very quickly without really a lot of vetting or planning as to what’s really going to happen here,” Eslinger said.
Hegeman agreed to strike the program.
The amended budget bill now awaits a vote from the full Senate; approval would send it back to the House for consideration.
Follow Sarah Kellogg on Twitter: @sarahkkellogg