JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — Missouri lawmakers will receive a pay raise for the first time 14 years after the House failed to reject the increase Thursday.
Representatives had a chance to reject 5 percent pay raise over two years, but the legislation did not receive the two-thirds majority vote needed. Some Republicans argued taking money from taxpayers isn’t fair, while Democrats said it wasn’t right to be voting on their own salaries.
The deadline to reject the pay increase is Feb. 1. House members were concerned if they passed House Committee Resolution 7, the Senate would not have enough time to take it up and the raise still would have taken effect. The increase was approved by the Citizens’ Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials last year. The commission voted to spread the raise over two years, raising the salaries 2.5 percent each year.
Senate Majority Leadership said Thursday the raises were needed, even though the Senate wouldn’t get to vote on the legislation.
“This is a full-time job with part-time part, realistically and if you want talented individuals, unless you’re looking for people that are retired or have another source of income to support them, it’s very difficult for somebody to come up here and serve in this capacity,” Senate Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, said. “I think it’s time the compensation has increased. Again, it’s not really going to increase enough to make a significant difference I don’t think, but obviously, it’s something. I’ve been here 11 years and it hasn’t changed since I’ve been here.”
Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said it would help bring a more diverse group of people to Jefferson City.
“I don’t think anybody wants to live in a world where the only people who can serve in the legislature are people who have personal wealth,” Rowden said. “I want to make sure there needs to be a diverse group of folks who are here and who come to us with varying life circumstances and varying views of the world and so in that, it probably helps a little bit.”
Currently lawmakers make $35,915, not including their mileage, and with the 5 percent raise over two years, their salary would increase to $37,711. The first 2.5 percent raise would kick in July 1 with the second increase coming one year later.
Besides lawmakers, HCR 7 also gives raises to other state elected officials like Gov. Parson, who told reporters Thursday, he supports the increase.
“The reality of it is, you’ve got to have a way to get good people up here to do good representation,” Parson said. “When you pay someone less than $36,000 a year to do one of these jobs up here and get away from their family, I think you miss a lot of talent that would be very worthwhile to be up here in state government.”
But Parson believes something should change to keep lawmakers from voting on their own salary. “I think there should be an adjustment there where it doesn’t always have to go through the legislative body to make those adjustments,” Parson said.
The governor’s salary would increase $7,000 over the two-year hike, bringing the total salary to more than $140,000 by 2023. This increase for all state elected officials is expected to cost the state $210,000 both years.