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Lawmakers listen to salary, benefits report

by Bob Watson | January 12, 2017 at 4:34 a.m. | Updated January 18, 2017 at 4:26 p.m.

State lawmakers on Wednesday heard the official report the state ordered that confirms what most state employees already knew - at an average of $37,476 a year, Missouri state workers' annual pay ranks last among the 50 states.

Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said the report is valuable for helping all lawmakers understand the issues.

"We've said for years that the challenge for the local representatives and senators," he explained, "is getting data that the rest of the legislative body could have. I think we can build from here."

Kehoe is a former member of the Joint Interim Committee on State Employee Wages.

Rep. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, is its chairman.

"I'm reviewing proposals right now to see if there's something I want to file and propose to the Legislature to run through the committee process," he told reporters after Wednesday's 90-minute meeting to discuss the report issued by St. Louis-based CBIZ Human Capital Services.

The state paid CBIZ $324,750 to study Missouri's pay and benefits.

As required by the state's contract, the study looked at "comparison base salary data for positions matched to peer roles for the surrounding eight states" - Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa - as well as similar positions in private industry and businesses.

After making those comparisons, the survey determined Missouri's workers are paid on average 10.4 percent below market rates.

When adding in a calculation for benefits, though, the CBIZ report said: "The benefits offered by the state are above market and improve the overall market position of the state.

"However, state employees remain 4.6 percent below market when totaling base salary, incentives and benefits."

With state lawmakers looking at cutting around $500 million from the budget for the business year that ends June 30, Bernskoetter and Kehoe aren't optimistic they can include raises for state workers in the next budget for the business year that begins July 1.

"It looks like another tough year," Bernskoetter said. "One good thing about the study is we've got a plan.

"We may not be able to implement it this year, but we have a blueprint for the future that we can hopefully implement in the future."

Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, said lawmakers need to "sit down and look at the things that we can pull from this report and begin to chip away at each of those things that they recommended - and see what's doable and what isn't."

Kehoe said: "Budgets are about priorities. It's like any household in Missouri - people are making decisions about where their priorities are.

"I'm hoping this report helps us move that priority up in the scheme of the budget things."


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