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Government, Politics & Issues

$15 minimum wage for Missouri state employees not guaranteed under amended budget

Dan Haug, Missouri Budget Director, speaks to the media on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022, during a press briefing on Gov. Mike Parson’s proposed budget at the state Capitol in Jefferson City, Missouri.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Budget Director Dan Haug, pictured on Jan. 19, presented the original supplemental budget in early January. The new version modifies the state's plan for raises for state employees.

Missouri state workers’ jobs will decide how large a raise they could see under a supplemental budget bill that a House committee advanced Monday.

Members of the House Budget Committee approved the plan by a vote of 22-8. All the votes against it came from Democrats. The full House could debate the bill on the floor as early as this week.

Under the original emergency supplemental budget bill, all state workers would have received a 5.5% cost-of-living adjustment. Additionally, the new baseline across the board would have been $15 an hour.

Though the amended bill does keep intact the 5.5% cost-of-living adjustment, the $15-an-hour minimum wage would only go to state workers involved with caring for people.

“Folks like the people that work in the state hospital, the veterans homes, the folks in [the] Children's Division, the foster care programs,” said Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, who chairs the committee. “If you are directly caring for an individual or charged with caring for people directly, I think that $15-an-hour baseline wage is appropriate, and this is what that bill does.”

For other state workers, the minimum would instead be $12 an hour. The minimum wage in the state is currently $11.15. Smith said the intent of this modification is to give agencies the ability to address raises, without a higher-than-necessary minimum wage for “truly minimum-wage jobs.”

“If you're in a direct care agency, or direct care role, you get $15 an hour, or 5.5%, whichever is greater. If you're not, and you get 5.5%, or $12 [an hour], whichever is greater,” Smith said.

The modified raises drew the ire of Democrats, who supported the original rates, which Gov. Mike Parson first backed in December.

Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, said the adjustment to the raises results in a 7.5% decrease from the governor’s original proposal.

Merideth asked Smith to hear from state departments on how this change in raises would affect their ability to hire and retain workers, but Smith said there was no time Monday in the committee’s schedule to hear from them before the vote.

Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, spoke in favor of the changes.

“This is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the fact that the state of Missouri has a minimum wage, and the state should not be competing against the private sector in that context,” Richey said.

Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, D-St. Louis, said by not increasing the minimum baseline across the board, Missouri is refusing to be competitive with the labor market.

“We would rather sit on our hands and say, ‘Let's not dive too much into the private sector and make them feel some type of way. Let's not do that.’ But yet we are sitting here in the face of possible employees out here telling them, ‘Hey, you're not essential, you don't deserve it, you don't deserve us showing up,’” Bosley said.

In addition to the wage adjustments, the supplemental bill includes almost $2 billion in federal funding for public schools as well as funding for Medicaid for the remainder of the fiscal year.

However, in addition to advancing the supplemental budget, the committee advanced by a vote of 22-9 a proposed constitutional amendment that would give the legislature greater control over funding for the state’s Medicaid program. The change would ultimately require voter approval.

Follow Sarah Kellogg on Twitter: @sarahkkellogg

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