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Missouri state workers' pay improvements inching along

Missouri state workers' pay improvements inching along

March 10th, 2019 by Bob Watson in Local News

People stand in a hallway at the Missouri State Capitol on April 4, 2018.

Photo by News Tribune /News Tribune.

The overall average pay for Missouri government employees improved — slightly — in every year but one over the last dozen years.

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But a new salaries and benefits study released in January shows the average pay for employees in the executive branch agencies remains last in the nation, when adjusted for each state's average labor costs.

Lawmakers currently are considering Gov. Mike Parson's proposal to raise all state employees' pay by 3 percent, with additional targeted increases to adjust corrections officers' salaries — and to adjust the salaries of about 4,000 state employees so they can earn the "market minimums" for their jobs, when compared with other states and private businesses that have similar kinds of work.

State Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles, the House Budget Committee's vice chairman, told the News Tribune the governor's plan still is part of the proposed budget — which must be released from the committee and debated by the full House before it can go to the Senate.

A 2016 study by CBIZ Human Capital Services reported 5,059 state employees were being paid below the "market minimums" for their jobs.

The new report, submitted Jan. 31 by CBIZ Talent and Compensation Services, said that number was up — to 6,760 state employees being paid below the proposed pay range minimums.

State Budget Director Dan Haug told the News Tribune last week that no one was getting more than a 15 percent boost, under the governor's pay plan, to reach their "market minimum" pay level.

"We've got to look at the cost of this and how that affects other employees and all those inter-related things," he said. "We felt like 15 percent was still a very significant raise, and it gets most everybody."

He said Parson's plan didn't include "market-minimum" adjustments for Corrections and Transportation department employees — because their proposed adjustments are being handled separately.

Average pay for state employees

The average pay for executive branch workers was $33,480.59 a year in the 2006-07 state business year — and that the average has increased to $38,643.81 per year — the state's Office of Administration said last week.

The new CBIZ study reports Missouri's average state employee pay was $915 a year better than West Virginia's, so Missouri was in next-to-last rather than last place.

But, when CBIZ adjusted average incomes based on the states' labor rates, the numbers were better (Missouri had an adjusted annual average of $41,223 a year) — but other state's numbers also improved, and Missouri again was 50th in the nationwide comparisons.

"Part of that is us not keeping up with the wage market," Haug said. "And that's part of why we did the (proposed) 3 percent (raises) — is (because) of where we are with the market, to stay with the market."

Haug and OA Commissioner Sarah Steelman said the increased pay in recent years is a result of competition for jobs with other employers.

"It's driven by demand, which drives competition," Steelman said. "(People) can find better-paying jobs at that rate — so they do."

Haug added: "As unemployment gets lower, obviously, wages grow faster because there are fewer people looking for jobs, and the supply and demand of the market goes up."

OA statistics provided to the News Tribune show the majority of state employees still earn in the $20,000-$40,000 pay range.

In 2006-07, OA reported, 21,749 people earned between $20,000-$30,000 a year, and 14,879 people had salaries between $30,000-$40,000 — together a total of 36,628, or nearly three-fourths (73.37 percent) of the 49,919 full-time employees on the state's payroll.

In the 2017-18 business year, the total number of state employees had dropped, both overall and in that pay range — to 29,765 people from a total full-time workforce of 43,623 (68.23 percent), with 10,237 earning between $20,000-$30,000 and 19,528 earning $30,000-$40,000.

The number of people earning under $20,000 has dropped from 2,500 in the 2006-07 business year to just a handful — nine — in the 2017-18 business year.

Over the last 12 years, the number of state employees earning between $40,000-$50,000 has increased some — from 6,097 in the 2006-07 business year to a high of 6,850 in 2009-10 to 6,708 employees last year.

Those making $50,000-$60,000 also increased, from 2,608 in 2007 to a high of 3,535 in 2017, dropping slightly to 3,515 last year.

There also was growth in the number of people earning in every category above $60,000 a year (including more than $70,000, $80,000, $90,000, $100,000, $110,000 and $120,000).

This story doesn't include salaries paid by Missouri's public colleges and universities, which are separate from the payroll services handled by OA.

Salary breakdown by departments

Most of Missouri government's highest salaries are paid to department administrators and, in some agencies — like the Department of Mental Health — to doctors trained to provide medical services and to other professionals whose jobs are in high demand.

In some cases — including the Department of Mental Health and the lieutenant governor's and attorney general's offices — there are employees making more than the director or officeholder.

OA provided a listing of the top 10 salaries paid by each department (except the lieutenant governor's office, which doesn't have 10 employees) — and that information can be seen above on this page the newspaper.

Pay scales for elected officials — lawmakers and the six statewide officeholders — are set by a citizens commission that meets every two years, with the Legislature having the final say about implementing those salary suggestions.

Judges' salaries also are set by the commission which, several years ago, tied Missouri judges' salaries to the pay scales for federal judges.

But department administrators' salaries are recommended by the governor's office and approved — or modified — by the Legislature during the annual budget process.

The information supplied by OA shows only modest increases for department directors and senior staff since the 2006-07 business year.