Our Opinion: Panel works to correct disparities in state pay

Successful operations often identify their employees as their greatest asset.

Missouri government has proved adept at doing more with less.

Sadly, its employees — arguably its greatest asset — earn less than their peers elsewhere in the United States. Missouri state employee salaries are ranked 50th among states, according to some statistics, including the U.S. Census Bureau.

In an effort to lift that dismal ranking, lawmakers this year created the Joint Interim Committee on State Employee Wages.

The panel, which met for the first time last week, will benefit from the inclusion of three Jefferson City lawmakers.

State Rep. Mike Bernskoetter, who spearheaded creation of the committee, will serve as chairman, assisted by fellow Rep. Jay Barnes and Sen. Mike Kehoe.

The three freshmen Republicans all represent a large constituency of state employees and are acutely aware of salary disparities.

Bernskoetter pointed out that a comprehensive salary study has not been conducted since 1983. As the first order of business, the panel instructed the Office of Administration to provide pertinent data to panel members.

As a result of tough economic times, state employees have received no raise in the past three years.

Gov. Jay Nixon has told legislative leaders he intends to recommend a 2 percent cost-of-living increase in the state budget he will present to lawmakers in January.

Although the news was welcomed by panel members, they indicated they will be looking at long-term initiatives.

Bernskoetter said he does not expect enough money in the coming year’s budget for Missouri workers to catch up to their peers in other states. “But,” he added, “hopefully, we’ll have the information we need when the economy turns around to improve the pay of state workers.”

We commend our local lawmakers, and all committee members, for their commitment to study state salaries and to suggest justifiable increases.

State employees deserve fair compensation for their work on behalf of Missouri taxpayers.

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