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Lawmaker proposes cap on state pay

Serving on the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, Mike Parson has “noticed that there are some people on the salary scale in the state of Missouri who make different wages, to say the least.”

And the Bolivar Republican told the Senate’s Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee: “I also notice that there are people ... in some departments who make more than our governor.”

Currently, Gov. Jay Nixon earns $5,575.87 (before taxes) on each paycheck, or $133,820.88 a year, the Office of Administration confirmed Wednesday.

“I think if you’re going to be the ‘highest elected official’ in the state,” Parson said, “I don’t think people should be getting paid more than that.”

He wants lawmakers to pass a bill that would prohibit any state employee’s salary from exceeding the governor’s.

And freshman Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, agreed.

“I’m a big fan of this concept,” the committee’s vice-chair explained. “As Budget chairman in the House, I — for a couple of years — tried to rein in, particularly, director’s salaries or political-appointee-type salaries, and knock those down to the lieutenant governor’s salary, which is $80,000.”

Parson didn’t identify those making more than Nixon, but said: “There are several agencies out there that have people who make more.”

Wanda Seeney, OA’s spokeswoman, told the News Tribune in an e-mail Wednesday afternoon: “There are currently 85 positions earning a salary higher than the governor — primarily physicians with the Department of Mental Health, Supreme Court Judges, Appellate Judges and directors of a very few departments, such as MoDOT, the Department of Higher Education, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.”

The departments Seeney named are supervised by independent boards or commissions, which hire the agency directors.

She noted university salaries “are not part of the state payroll,” but are, instead, the

responsibility of the individual institutions.

Judges’ salaries are set by the state Citizens Compensation Commission, as are the salaries for lawmakers and the six statewide elected officials.

Parson acknowledged that governors have the option of hiring directors and others at higher salaries than the chief executive earns.

“But, I just think that it’s getting way too lopsided,” he explained. “I think we need to take a serious look, and we need to have a conversation about that.”

Silvey noted during Wednesday’s meeting “particularly when it comes to politically appointed positions, you know some of these individuals personally because they served here, and that seems to be their primary qualification for the position they’ve been given.”

He said that kind of appointment happens in every administration.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said the salary question has been raised with each department during the budget hearing process — but no final salary decisions have been made.

The House is poised to pass its version of the budget bills this morning, so the Senate Appropriations Committee can begin making decisions on the formal budget next week.

The Government Accountability Committee took no action Wednesday on Parson’s bill.

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