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Perspective: Tweaking legislation, opening Bicentennial Bridge

by State Rep. Rudy Veit, R-Jefferson City, Mo. | December 26, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

The holidays are a great time of the year, and I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. My life, like yours, is rather hectic, but there are so many great and inspirational events at Christmas time. I won't give you any words of advice about Christmas, but I am sure you have been told many times with people with more spiritual intellect than I about the importance of Christmas.

In addition to all of the events that go with Christmas, the Capitol is very busy. I have eight bills that have been filed. The various people and organizations that they affect have been in contact with me themselves or through their lobbyists to help make sure these bills work as intended.

House Bill 557 is a bill I introduced and passed last year dealing with unlicensed residential care facilities that provided housing and care to children 24 hours a day 365 days a year. While we were able to pass reform in this area, that is often only the beginning of the battle as we are now working with the relevant state agencies to ensure regulations are passed affecting the intent of the law. I am also meeting with the various organizations affected by the bill to make sure we do not have any unintended consequences.

Everyone I am sure has heard of the bridge to Adrian Island. It is now complete and anyone can go to the island. There is still work to be done on the island, but it has been opened to the public. The project was a vision that took more than 20 years to complete, but it started with individuals having a vision and a large portion of our community getting behind it. I know there was opposition from some as to the construction of the bridge, but before making up your mind about whether it was good or bad for the community, take some time to enjoy it and then form an opinion. Keep in mind the majority of this project was made possible by people giving their time, talent and treasure for what they believed was the good of the community.

Pay raises for the state are now a top issue for the Legislature. Our role as caretakers of the government is not any different than the CEO of a corporation. The reality of the current market is that wages are going up, and by the time we train people every year to replace the employees leaving, it's going to be cheaper to raise wages. We must value our workers, treat them with respect and take the necessary steps to encourage them to stay.

Businesses around the state are raising wages not out of generosity, but because they recognize this is the most efficient and best way to run their businesses. Every one of us involved in business has had to train new workers and understand the value of retention. Imagine having a business with the turnover we have in the state. That is why I, along with Sen. Mike Bernskoetter and Rep. Dave Griffith, sent the following letter to our fellow representatives:

"To my esteemed colleagues in the Missouri House of Representatives,

"I write to you today to urge your support for the proposed state worker pay increases. As you all well know, our state employees are some of the most underpaid in the nation. The study conducted by CBIZ Human Capital Services last year found that the pay earned by roughly 38,000 state employees is well below what is considered competitive in the market. The average annual earnings for our state workers, when adjusted for the national scale, is $39,682.

"This is the lowest in the nation.

"It's time that we do what is necessary ... it's time that we do the right thing. We spend hours discussing how to improve so many facets of our state, whether it be the roads, taxes, economic industry, healthcare, or public services. Every day we spend in a committee hearing, or on the House floor... we are surrounded by state workers. Brilliant, dedicated, hardworking, and gifted people seeking to assist us in any way possible so that we might help better this state that we call home. They're here longer than we are on many nights, working long and tirelessly to help us do our jobs.

"And there's so many more of them across our state, working to keep us safe, to maintain our roads, to keep pushing forward with innovations, or to assist the people of this state. We've all sat through discussions of how we might better the economic driving factors of the state, and we've worked hard on several initiatives to draw companies in, to 'show them that Missouri is open for business.'

"But how long must our state workers continue to serve as the caboose of that train? How long do we need to read the headlines confirming that our state is ranked 'the worst' in anything? We are proud of our state and all that it has to offer, and the fact that we continually have the lowest-paid state workers in the nation is not a designation that any true son or daughter of the Show-Me State should be proud of.

"Additionally, we have seen the effects of this: our state departments are not only having trouble hiring folks for the openings we have, but we are losing people, too. Brilliant and talented workers are departing from our agencies into private-sector jobs, and our agencies have literally become the training grounds. A prime example is MoDOT -- each year, our Transportation Department hires and trains people on how to maintain and build our roads, but eventually, a good number of those hires will realize that they can make more money working for the county doing the same work. Our departments have become the training grounds, and it should really be the other way around.

"We can continue to limp along and give incremental raises here and there, but the fact is that as the cost of living continues going up, our workers' wages have remained stagnant. And that forces our workers, our people, to make some hard decisions. We're able to invest millions of dollars and offer massive tax credits to keep a GM factory in Missouri, but why can't we really invest in ourselves? We should be putting that money into our own people, knowing that an investment in them is an investment in the future of our state.

"We are the Show-Me State. Let's show our people that we care. Let's show them that their work matters, and that we want them to achieve their dreams just like every other American."

As always, your input is vital to my ability to represent you effectively. Please call 573-751-0665 and email [email protected] with your questions, thoughts and concerns.

State Rep. Rudy Veit, R-Jefferson City, represents Missouri's 59th District and shares his perspective on statehouse issues twice a month.

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