JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri Gov. Mike Parson wants to give state workers a pay raise to offset inflation and keep employees from leaving for better-paying jobs. 

Currently, there are roughly 7,000 job openings across state governments in Missouri, which is why the governor said this increase is necessary. His plan includes the most significant pay raise in Missouri’s history, but it’s going to need approval from the General Assembly. 

“We’re always playing from behind, and we have an opportunity with what we have in our surplus to catch up, and we need to do that,” Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, told reporters Thursday. 

For the second year in a row, the governor is pushing for a pay increase for state workers. His request this time is an 8.7% boost. 

“You’re not trying to butt out the private sector; you’re not trying to put the private sector at a detriment,” Senate President Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said. “I think the nature of how bad our workforce situation is right now; is you’re just trying to stay up.”

Last year, state employees received a 7.5% pay raise after lawmakers approved an additional 5.5% at the end of February, on top of the 2% increase workers received in January of 2022. Under this request from Parson, there seems to be agreement from both sides of the aisle. 

“The pay raise isn’t about buying an extra car, it’s about surviving in the new world, and the new world is unfortunately built with a five-dollar gallon of milk,” Rizzo said. 

Parson also wants to increase the shift differential to $2 an hour for state congregate care employees who work overnight at prisons, mental health facilities, and veterans nursing homes. Those state workers fall under the Department of Social Services (DSS), Department of Corrections (DOC), Department of Mental Health (DMH), and the Missouri Veterans Commission. 

“Certainly, the justification for doing it is necessary,” Rowden said. “You have to do something. Clearly, we have a workforce at the state level that does a lot of important things for a lot of people.”

Missouri employs 50,000 workers, who are among some of the lowest-paid state workers in the nation. 

“We’ve got to get to that place where we can be competitive against Target, McDonald’s, and all these other companies and businesses out there that are now paying $15, $16, $17, and up to $20 an hour.” 

Right now, the state has a surplus of roughly $6 billion. Parson’s pay plan is estimated to cost $151.2 million, including $82.4 million in general revenue. Parson said he wants lawmakers to pass legislation as soon as possible, with the hopes of implementing the plan by March 1, allowing state workers to see the increase on their paystub by March 31. 

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said in a statement that the governor’s pay plan needs to go further. 

“As a starting point, the governor’s proposed pay raise for state employees has merit. But it isn’t nearly enough to end Missouri’s sorry status of having the worst average state worker pay in the nation. A couple years of modest improvement simply isn’t enough to overcome decades of shortchanging state workers with annual raises that ranged from the minuscule to the non-existent. To be competitive in recruiting and retaining workers, state government must do much more. We are hopeful the House Budget Committee will build on the governor’s proposal to craft a more robust pay plan for our dedicated state workforce.”

This proposal comes just days before the governor is set to give his annual State of the State Address, where he will lay out his legislative priorities for lawmakers. Rowden and Rizzo expect childcare, education, workforce development, and infrastructure to be major topics of his speech.