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No pay raise for state workers, more job cuts

No pay raise for state workers, more job cuts

February 3rd, 2017 by Bob Watson in Local News

Gov. Eric Greitens.

Photo by Associated Press /News Tribune.

Missouri government's workers won't be losing their last-in-the-nation ranking for average pay this coming year.

Gov. Eric Greitens' nearly $27.6 billion state budget plan doesn't include a state employees' pay raise.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, told the News Tribune: "I believe that state employees do excellent work and that they have earned a pay raise.

"I would like to have seen a pay raise for state employees included in the governor's proposed budget, but it was not.

"I, and other members of the House and Senate, will work within the constraints of the budget to try and make a pay raise a reality."

Even though he's not proposing a pay raise, Greitens said in the budget summary he's "committed to maintaining the state's benefits package for its hard-working public servants. Other states across the country are jeopardizing state employee retirement benefits by not adequately funding their pension systems."

Acting Budget Director Dan Haug told reporters Thursday the governor's proposal to fully fund the contribution for state employees' pensions and funding the state health care plan costs so employees' premiums stay flat will add $55.6 million to the state's expenses.

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During his Jan. 17 State of the State address, Greitens said Missouri has too many government workers.

His 2017-18 budget plan proposes cutting 188 positions, "through vacancies and attrition," Haug said.

Kehoe said he understands no layoffs will be needed to meet the goal.

Greitens' budget envisions the equivalent of 54,589 full-time employees (FTE), statewide — down about 7,000 FTE from the 2004-05 budget in place when Republican Matt Blunt took over as governor.

State Rep. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, said: "While I'm disappointed the governor didn't allocate money for a state employees' raise, and by the cuts to Lincoln University and State Technical College of Missouri, I commend Gov. Greitens for making tough decisions."

Greitens' budget proposal cuts 10 percent from the core budgets of each four-year and two-year college.

For Lincoln University, the governor proposed state funding of $17,860,719 — $262,700 less than the state money LU spent in the 2015-16 state business year, and more than $2.54 million less than lawmakers appropriated for Lincoln a year ago.

"While cuts are never positive news, we understand the need to find ways to create a budget that responds to the incoming revenue for our state," LU President Kevin Rome said in a statement to the LU community. "We are greatly appreciative of the $687,332 the university is proposed to receive in performance-based funding.

"This provides feedback that the work we do to provide a quality education that meets the state's core standards is not going unnoticed."

Greitens' budget proposed $5,523,220 for State Technical College in the 2017-18 business year that begins July 1.

That's $267,034 more than the nearly $5.26 million in state money the school spent in the 2015-16 business year, but $334,751 less than lawmakers budgeted for the current business year.

State Tech President Shawn Strong told the News Tribune: "My greatest concern at this point is the duration of the cuts.

"If this is permanent, our approach is much different than if this is a short-term problem we can work through using reserves."

Greitens said the state's colleges should tighten their belts to deal with the budget reductions.

Strong said: "Unless we can grow enrollment significantly, we have two options: increase tuition or make cuts that impact some of the most needed technical programs in the state.

"Adding 200 more students won't happen overnight."

Gov. Jay Nixon last year had withheld $1 million in matching funds for Lincoln's federal land grant money, and Greitens last month blocked another 8 percent in spending for all Missouri colleges that receive state money.

Greitens' proposed budget continues those cuts, Haug said.

But Kehoe and Bernskoetter both noted the governor's proposal is just a first step in the budget process.

"The final budget that the legislature passes is certain to look different," Kehoe said.

Bernskoetter added: "I'm not giving up on state employee pay raises. I will work with the budget staff to see if we can improve salaries."

And Rome said there's time to talk changes.

"Over the coming weeks and months, we hope to have important discussions with Gov. Greitens and lawmakers to create better footing for our institutions, our students and our workforce," he said.