Missouri can provide better raises for state employees if there are fewer of them, Gov. Eric Greitens said during his State of the State address Tuesday night.
"Our best state employees are being hurt by a big, bloated bureaucracy," Greitens said. "In Indiana, they have 46 state employees per 10,000 people. In Illinois, they have 47 state employees for every 10,000 people. In Ohio, they have 55.
"And in Missouri? We have 92 employees for every 10,000 people in our state."
Greitens said those numbers explain why "we are 50th out of the 50 states in what we pay our state employees."
State Rep. Mike Bernskoetter — who chairs the Joint Interim Committee on State Employee Wages — found Greitens' numbers interesting.
"I'd never heard that figure before," Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, told the News Tribune. "Do they subcontract more state jobs than we do? I would like to know where those statistics come from."
State Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, agreed.
"I think that's a question that needs to go department by department," Barnes explained. "I think those numbers cited from other states — it might be interesting to compare certain departments in those states with departments in this state.
"There are certain things the state of Missouri does that takes on responsibilities that, in other states, are taken on by county governments."
Greitens said Missouri needs to change the last-in-the-nation pay situation.
"Our government employees do important work — often really important, life-saving work," he said. "We need to reward the greatest in government service with better pay.
"This is how a good business would run. We'd pay and promote our best people and make sure they know they are valued.
"And we'd have a government focused on doing fewer things but doing them well — that's how we'll be able to pay our star performers what they deserve."
Greitens said he's "committed to civil service reform, with a focus on making a smaller government that works better for all of our people and will make Missouri a better place to do business."
Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said current state employees shouldn't be concerned they'll lose their jobs quickly.
"I think what you heard the governor say is that our technology is such that we have to have more people to do the same thing that other states do" with fewer government workers, Kehoe explained.
Greitens said during his 36-minute speech: "People stand in too many lines for too many hours for too many basic services. Part of the reason for this is that our government is running on too many broken and outdated systems that make it too hard to serve the people."
The governor noted some of the state's systems are still programmed using COBOL — a computer language developed in 1959.
"When you go to fix a technology and an efficiency problem, you don't do that overnight," Kehoe said.
"Again, it's the long-term plan that we've been talking about for years."
Kehoe expects the state workforce to be reduced much as it has been over the past dozen years — through attrition.
He said the Greitens administration hasn't set "a target to get to a certain number" of state employees.
"What we want to do is look at what other states are doing," Kehoe said, "and their models that have worked, and find out what we can do to get there."
Barnes agreed there are some areas that can be improved, and "it's very important for the people in Mid-Missouri to understand that (they provide) core government functions."
State Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, said Greitens isn't targeting "those people who are coming to work every day and giving everything they have to the citizens of this state."
However, she's heard about some state employees who collect good paychecks but "who never come to work. I think those are the places where we need to start" looking at cutting the number of employees.