By Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio
Jefferson City, MO – Negotiations for a potential pay hike have begun between the Missouri Governor's office and the labor union that represents about 7,000 state workers.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), is proposing a six percent annual pay raise for the next three years, along with a fee for non-union workers covered by union-negotiated contracts.
Michelle Sanders is a nurse at Fulton State Hospital, which cares for mentally ill patients. She attended a rally at the State Capitol in support of her union's bid for higher wages.
Sanders told reporters she's chiefly concerned about low staffing levels, which she says makes her job dangerous.
"I've been attacked several times...sometimes they just come up behind you and get you, other times you're in the middle of a takedown and you get hit...I mean, it just all depends on the situation," Sanders said.
Missouri Senate Appropriations Chairman Gary Nodler (R, Joplin) says, though, there's no way to know if the state can afford pay raises until the new revenue estimates come in later this year.
"The daily revenue numbers I saw, and it was a couple of days ago, we were down nearly eight percent from last year...if these projections continue, we'll probably be looking for ways to reduce spending, not to increase it," Nodler said.
Nodler also says any contract agreements between Governor Jay Nixon and AFSCME will need legislative approval.