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Kehoe completes first year on Appropriations

Senator: Government ‘leaps and bounds different’ than business

Missouri lawmakers last week met their constitutional deadline, passing a budget for the state business year that begins July 1 before Friday’s 6 p.m. deadline.

And for Sen. Mike Kehoe, it also marked the end of his first year on the Senate’s Appropriations Committee.

“I found it very interesting,” Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said last week. “Being on the Appropriations Committee is a large task and, I think, a big responsibility. ...

“It was great to really sink my teeth into what the state’s budget is all about — I can see why it takes a long time to understand it.”

Kehoe said he’s asked Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, to stay on the committee, because he thinks it especially, “helps for the local senator to understand this (budget process) even more than, maybe, senators from other parts of the state.”

With Sen. Kurt Scahefer, R-Columbia, as chairman, and Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, as another of the Appropriations Committee’s 11 members, 13 Mid-Missouri and nearby counties are represented on the panel.

But that doesn’t give the region extra influence, Kehoe said.

“No, because I think when you’re on the Appropriations Committee, you have to represent (all) Missourians,” he explained. “Certainly, you try to make sure nothing bad happens to the areas you’re representing.”

Kehoe, a long-time businessman, acknowledged that many people think government should be run more “like a business.”

But “government runs nothing like a business,” he said. “It’s gaps. It’s leaps and bounds different. And I think there’s plenty of room to fine tune various areas of government to run more like a business.

“I hope to be able to inject that into the (budget) conversation. ... In the years to come, I really want to try to get things to be more common-sense, and run things more like you’re trying to live or die to make payroll, to keep a business alive like small-business owners do, without just having these hordes of cash sit around and spend any way that you want.”

Kehoe acknowledged state employees have not been thrilled with their last-in-the-nation average salary and the lack of pay raises over the past few years.

He’s one of three Jefferson City-based lawmakers on the Legislature’s Joint Interim Committee on State Employee Wages.

“We’ve got great employees now,” he said last week, adding, “(we’re) going to continue to push for a 10- or 15-year pay plan, and that concept has not gone away.”

Last year, the committee said the state should hire a consultant to help compare Missouri government employees’ wages and benefits with those of other states’ employees, and with similar jobs in the private sector.

“We are working with the Office of Administration, and some of our local industries and chambers of commerce, to try to move that step forward,” Kehoe said. “There are some funds in various parts of the (new) budget that could be appropriate to use for (some) of that.”

The plan is to combine state dollars with money donated from the private sector, to pay for the study.

“I think that’s a vital first step in trying to map this plan out,” he said.

The resolution passed last year, authorizing the joint committee to continue the work started in 2011, requires the committee to ask OA “to invest in a consultant to conduct salary and total compensation surveys to more comprehensively review and analyze the state classification and compensation structures, similar to what other states have done,” and then “to use the data from the comprehensive study to produce a long-term strategic plan for increasing state employee wages and to present such plan to the Governor, the House Budget Committee, and the Senate Appropriations Committee by January 31, 2015.”

That gives the panel the rest of this year, and all of 2014, to complete their work.

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