The Missouri House approved a supplemental budget and sent it to the Senate after a floor vote Monday evening. The bill, a House Committee Substitute for House Bill 14, would approve an 8.7 percent pay increase for state employees (not including state elected officials).
"These are much, much-needed raises. ... But these are the baseline and really the bare minimum of what's needed," said Rep. Peter Merideth, a St. Louis Democrat.
The $627 million legislative bill would also spend $20 million on school safety upgrades, provide $275 million to the Missouri Disaster Fund and appropriate $149 million to the Department of Mental Health to fund grant programs.
It would also give $6 million to the Highway Patrol Employees' retirement program and contribute $7.7 million to the Social Security Administration's Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance program. If passed, $24 million would be contributed to the Missouri State Employees' Retirement System.
It would also cover a $2-per-hour shift differential for eligible state team members working overnight and evening shifts at care facilities. There are also funds earmarked for an increase in travel mileage reimbursement for state workers from 55 cents per mile to 65.5 cents per mile.
Merideth compared the cost of a pay increase for workers left behind by the bill (like social workers or in-home caretakers) with the cost of the "largest tax cut in Missouri history" from the 2022 legislative session.
"We passed what was billed as the largest tax cut in our state because, guess what, the people in this chamber thought that we had enough money, ongoing, to afford a billion-dollar-a-year cost," he said. "Surely, we have enough money for our budget to keep up with inflation, as well."
Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, the sponsor for the supplemental budget bill (House Bill 14), responded by saying his bill was simple and uncomplicated.
"Our friends on the other side of the aisle criticize us for not spending enough on each category, in this case, it's employee worker pay or social services or school safety programs. ... We have to make trade-offs, unfortunately, we can't spend our way out of all of society's problems," Smith said.
Gov. Mike Parson had the 8.7 percent pay raise, along with the $2 per hour shift differential on his list of legislative and fiscal priorities for the 2024 fiscal year. He asked that the supplemental budget be on his desk by March 1. His budget estimated the pay raise would cost $273.6 million for the upcoming fiscal year.
The amount in the supplemental budget (which essentially covers the remainder of the current fiscal year) allotted for the pay increase and shift differential coverage totaling $108.5 million.
Rep. Deb Lavender, a Democrat from Manchester, thought the bill didn't go far enough to compensate workers such as in-home caretakers.
"Last week, I had an amendment that we did not get onto this bill that asked for pay increases for people who provide services to those who live in our home," Lavender said. "Mr. Speaker, I want to know what it's going to take of us before we provide for these communities, for these vulnerable communities in our state."
Lavender said the Missouri Division of Developmental Disabilities had 624 openings and the Department of Behavioral Health had 903 open positions and that the workers in these positions were not being supported enough, causing high turnover.
"So one day, and I hope that day is before our next tax cut because that will soon be coming to a chamber near you, we can make sure we cover the services in this that are needed to help with truly vulnerable populations," Lavender said.