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If you read our paper regularly, it probably seems like the movie "Groundhog Day" each time you read a headline about how state employee pay is low compared to other states.

In some studies over the past couple of decades, it's been the lowest of all 50 states. In the most recent story we published Friday, state salaries ranked as second-worst.

But there's a new twist this time: There are layers of state government that are paid quite well, we reported. Some earn six figures, while others earn less than $20,000.

In the Department of Mental Health, Direct Care Aide Amanda White has earned $5,571.34 through Sept. 15, as we recently reported.

Yet, DMH also pays the state's top 10 salaries — all of which are professional medical care providers.

Amala Kumar Augustine, a consulting physician, staff physician and staff physician specialist for the department, is the single highest- paid employee in Missouri, earning more than $365,497.84 so far this year, according to the Missouri Accountability Portal.

While those last two salaries are extreme examples — $5,571 compared to $365,497 — the state's salaries, like the private sector, generally are determined by the responsibilities. Some jobs require advanced degrees/licenses and require long hours. Others require less experience, education and time.

While we're not too concerned with individual salaries, we are concerned — and have been for a long time — about the general state of state pay.

The state's budget is always tight. It's particularly hard to find money to put into state salaries because even small increases add up to big numbers in the budget.

However, ultimately, it's in the best interest to keep state salaries on par with other states. Otherwise, workers will eventually move to greener pastures and we'll have to hire employees whom we can afford rather than the ones who are best-qualified.

News Tribune

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