Gov. Mike Parson signed the state’s $30 billion budget last week. The new budget is for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
The budget contains many items including a pay increase for state workers. Beginning Jan. 1, employees of the state will receive a 3 percent raise while the Department of Corrections employees will receive additional salary increases in an effort to attract and retain prison officials.
On top of the 3 percent raise, workers in Missouri’s correctional institutes will receive an additional 1 percent raise for every two years spent working for the department. The department’s employees will receive a 1 percent raise for up to 20 years of employment.
The new pay schedule will be the largest wage increase for corrections staff in Missouri Department of Corrections history. Missouri currently employs approximately 11,000 people to work in the corrections department.
Missouri Department of Corrections employees rank last in terms of the national average for corrections officers. The low wages have in part contributed to a shortage of workers in the department and required existing employees to work forced overtime.
Additionally, lawmakers had to lower the age requirement to work in the prisons from 21 to 19 in order to fill the many vacant positions.
“It’s one of those things that everybody knows it’s been way past due,” said Rep. Mike Henderson, R-Bonne Terre. “I think we finally have a good pay plan in place and we’ll keep moving forward.”
“We don’t just want to give them a raise for just one year say ‘OK, we’re done.’ We have to keep making sure we’re implementing a pay plan to keep them on par,” said Henderson. I think we need to keep working to make sure we’re giving them a livable wage and taking care of those men and women who are doing that very difficult job.”
Rep. Dale Wright, R-Farmington, said he was very supportive of the new budget and the pay raises for correctional staff.
“Back when I was campaigning for office, I learned how many corrections officers and people affiliated with the prisons in our region that live in this area,” said Wright. “There was an overriding theme when I’d talk to them and it was ‘please help us with some pay increases.’
“I think it’s a great thing for our area and will actually be a large boon for our economy,” said Wright. “The Mineral Area will get more benefit than many parts of the state because we have so many employees who work for Corrections.”
Wright works on the House Health and Mental Health Committee and said that he plans to see what can be done to help employees in that department.
“I’m going to talk to the budget chair to see what the chances are that we can get something for [mental health workers] as well and determine if it’s legislation or a line item that we can have put in the budget,” Wright explained.
Rep. Chris Dinkins, R-Annapolis, shared similar views of the new budget as her district colleagues.
Dinkins said that she wanted to thank Governor Parson for working closely with the legislature to craft a fiscally responsible budget that wisely invests in areas of vital importance like education, workforce development and transportation infrastructure.
“I’m extremely thankful that the governor worked hand-in-hand with us to ensure our corrections officers receive a long overdue pay increase,” said Dinkins. “This is an incredibly important step to ensure these hard-working individuals receive fair compensation and to create a wage that will allow us to attract new employees to fill the many vacant positions that exist.”
Henderson said that he believed the budget was positively supported by the majority of legislators.
The governor has the ability to do line-item vetoes in the budget and then the legislature can take it up in veto session and decide if they agree or disagree with the governor’s decision.
“The governor vetoed nothing in this budget and I think it means it was a good budget for a couple reasons,” Henderson explained. “ I think this governor was very active in working with the legislature through the budget process and I think the legislature, both in the House and Senate, listened and did it the way it should be done.
“No one wins everything but we try to work together to do what we think is the best thing and I think we did that this time,” said Henderson.
Bobby Radford is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3628, or at email@example.com.