JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is proposing an 8.7% pay raise for all state workers — plus a bonus for some in strenuous jobs — as a way to offset inflation and discourage employees from leaving for better paying jobs.

The Republican governor’s plan outlined Wednesday needs approval from the Legislature before it can take effect. Parson said he wants lawmakers to act quickly, so that the raises can appear in employee paychecks by March 31.

“There is no question that the recruitment and retention of state employees have been a severe problem for our state, and we must do better,” Parson said.

The governor said there are about 7,000 open positions across state government, and the pay raises are necessary to keep pace with rising wages in the private sector.

In addition to the 8.7% cost of living increase, workers in certain congregate care facilities such as prisons, mental health facilities and veterans nursing homes would get a $2 per hour shift differential.

The proposed pay raises would add $151 million to the 2023 budget, which runs through June 30.

Democratic House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said the proposal is a good start but “isn’t nearly enough to end Missouri’s sorry status of having the worst average state worker pay in the nation.”

State employees received a 7.5% pay increase during the 2022 fiscal year.