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Missouri state employee salaries lowest in nation

On average, they are paid 15.6 percent less than comparable private-sector workers.

Dec. 4, 2012

Missouri’s state employees are paid the least, on average, of all 50 states.

A government-funded study found Missouri state employees are paid an average of 15.6 percent less than comparable private-sector workers.

Missouri’s state employees are paid less than the state employees in West Virginia, Mississippi and Arkansas, the country’s three poorest states, according to House Concurrent Resolution No. 33.

Missouri state employees have not had a pay raise since 2008, the act stated. Missouri has no comprehensive data on state compensation or total compensation.

The state government created the Joint Interim Committee on State Employee Wages in response. The committee is in charge of making Missouri's state employee wages compete with other states by looking at and creating ways to increase them, according to House Concurrent Resolution No. 33.

When the committee was first developed, its primary goal was simply to study whether Missouri paid its state employees the least amount of money. After finding Missouri had the lowest wages, the committee decided to continue operations.

“We are looking at a continuation of a committee that we started last year that will take an in-depth look at how Missouri state employees are compensated,” said Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City.

The committee — composed of three senators, three governors and four others —must now come up with ways to increase the average salaries of state employees.

The committee has until Jan. 31, 2015, to present a plan to the governor, the House Budget Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee.

One proposal is to offer all state employees a 2 percent pay increase. This would improve the average salary of 52,000 state employees from $36,477.85 to $37,207.41, according to census data. The proposed pay increase would be $729.56, on average.

Even with the proposed pay increase, Missouri would still rank last in average state employee salaries.

The committee is looking to come up with a long-term plan instead of quick fixes every once in a while, Kehoe said. This means it might be a long time before Missouri is no longer ranked 50th of the states in regard to state employee wages.

“Let’s give them a long-range plan and address the situation and get out of that 50th ranking and get to a much better place,” Kehoe said.

The Senate’s Joint Contingent Expenses appropriation funds all expenses of the Joint Interim Committee on State Employee Wages, according to the act. The source of the money for an increase in state employee wages is unknown.

The committee is not discussing legislative pay, said Dean Morgan of the Senate’s Communication Office. There is a separate citizens' group that makes salary recommendations for Missouri’s elected officials.

“We’re not discussing the legislative pay — we’re only talking about the employees of the state," said Sen. Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis. "That hasn’t come to the scope of the discussion yet."

Both Keaveny and Kehoe said they expect the Joint Interim Committee on State Employee Wages to meet through next year.

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Article comments

Dec. 4, 2012 at 12:40 p.m.

Robert W. Clark: Enjoyed the very informative article. As a former Missourian now living in Colo. I was disappointed to read how the employees wages have slipped over the years. This well written article might pave the way for change. Keep up the good work Ms Allison!

Dec. 4, 2012 at 5:58 p.m.

locomotivebreath1901: We're number 50! We're number 50! I guess the point of the article is to not recommend the state of Missouri as your employer?

Dec. 12, 2012 at 12:14 p.m.

Karen Branch: Good information presented well... As a MO State employee, I'm particularly loving the line "The committee has until Jan. 31, 2015, to present a plan to the governor, the House Budget Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee." It's frustrating that studying an issue like compensation, which can be complicated if the person studying it has no skills, should take this long. Really? My conclusion is that if there is real concern that MO State employees are underpaid, the deadline would be far more agressive. This deadline is clearly a passive-agressive way of saying "too bad, suckers-you're SOL".

Jan. 25, 2013 at 11:27 p.m.

Jambreman: I too am a MO State employee, and I know many State employees that qualify and use food stamps & medicaid. Where is the logic in that? Missouri has pay steps in place which are SUPPOSED to be given to employees each year so that they receive a raise, but they do not use it. My boss has worked for the State for 25 years and makes $200 more per month than I do. Without the State employees, Missouri could not function, yet we are not rewarded according to our abilities and performance. They need to fix this, because people will begin to go across state lines and work in other states for much higher pay. Take Kansas as an example.

Aug. 15, 2013 at 11:22 a.m.

Kacey: I am also a state employee. Luckily, I have a spouse that makes a decent wage and I no longer have children at home. My salary after working for 16 years is $25,900. Really?? I am grateful I am not a single mother otherwise I would be on food stamps also. That is really sad. Of course, the legislatures probably make plenty.

Sept. 12, 2013 at 8:36 a.m.

Vertical Exit: As a state employee I would have to say right now the problem is the govenor. He has stated that Missouri State employees are under worked and overpaid. Pretty easy to say when your pulling down 6 figures as a state employee. The legislature actually passed a pay raise for certain under paid employees this year and the govenor "postponed it indefinately". There are a lot of good reasons for working for the State of Missouri, but pay and benefits are not one of them.

Nov. 27, 2013 at 10:05 a.m.

James: I am a former Missouri State employee. I Loved my Job with the State, But I had to work a Part time job on the side, just to pay the bills. As a matter of fact, most Missouri state employees that I worked with had at least 1 other part time job. (My boss stocked shelves at Wal-mart at night.) I did not live an extravagant lifestyle, but I had to make rent and pay the bills. I tried to quit my part time job when I got my Oldsmobile paid off, but when It broke down, I had to go back, so I could pay the mechanic.. I applied in a neighboring State to do the same job I was doing in Missouri. Got hired and now make nearly double what I was making at BOTH jobs.. Sorry Missouri, but you have to pay your Good employees if you want to keep them.

Dec. 2, 2013 at 8:29 p.m.

Jim: I sent an idea to my state rep., that making State employees exempt from paying State taxes would give each employee an approximate 4% pay increase. I was brushed off and ignored.

Dec. 2, 2013 at 9:03 p.m.

W: As a state employee, I would like to know that my job is not going to be one of the budget cuts made ( others that have the same job as myself have already lost their jobs). So... Keep my job or get a raise? I would keep my job.

June 26, 2014 at 3:28 p.m.

Clay: I have been employed with the state for 31 years. During that 31 years, I have also worked a second job for 26 of those years. It is just a way of life. I am grateful for my continuous employment for most of my post college life, but the pay certainly could have helped when my children started college. When I was younger, I would be embarrassed when people would asked me where I worked. I would inevitably get the "oh, I bet that pays a lot of money" comment. But, I have gotten used to it. At least I have had continuous employment for 31 years. Now that I am 3 years past retirement age, it is not an option since insurance will take up almost half of my pension. Our division within the state has been chopped to over 1/3 of what it was 5 years ago. Will be tough to find other employment age, so I will just anonymously complain.

Aug. 28, 2014 at 4:52 p.m.

Gneep: The shame is that the extremely low pay for state employees has actually ruined families. It's a fact. I've worked for Missouri over 25 years and I know a lot of folks that got divorced because of living in poverty. It's a disgrace on those in government that decide our financial fate. They have made promise after promise to rectify the situation and they NEVER have. They just take care of their crony friends.

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