Our Opinion: Well-deserved state pay raise advances

As lawmakers grapple with the difficult task of crafting a state budget, we commend them for including a well-deserved pay increase for most state employees.

A House-Senate conference committee has agreed to a 2 percent increase for state workers who earn up to $70,000 annually. The raise would be effective in the budget year that begins July 1.

The raise reflects the House version, which would cover an estimated 97 percent of the work force. It also is more generous than a Senate proposal of a 2 percent hike for workers earning up to $45,000, which would benefit about 82 percent of state workers.

Both legislative proposals deviate from a plan offered by Gov. Jay Nixon, who requested a 2 percent raise for all state workers, but with a delayed starting date of Jan. 1, 2013.

Inclusion of the pay raise is hardly an easy decision, because state government again this year is facing a budget shortfall.

That gap, however, has served since the 2008-09 business year as rationale to avoid increasing compensation for state workers, who now rank last in pay among the 50 states.

As the capital city’s daily newspaper, we report regularly about awards and honors earned by state employees for their efficiency, productivity, dedication and service.

And we have heard repeatedly from lawmakers — including many who also are employers — that workers are their greatest asset.

We agree, wholeheartedly.

State government’s greatest assets are the workers who deliver health and human services, oversee our prisoners, patrol our highways and perform countless other tasks.

We commend lawmakers for the courage to translate talk into action.

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