© 2023 University of Missouri - KBIA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Missouri lawmakers debate state worker wages

Lawmakers in the Missouri State Capitol disagree on a minimum wage for state workers. A proposal moving through the House reduces the state worker pay raise proposed by Governor Mike Parson.

The Governor announced earlier this year he’d like wages raised to $15 per hour. Wednesday the House gave first round approval to a budget bill that pares that back for some workers to $12 per hour or 5.5%, whichever is greater.

Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, sponsored the bill that scaled back the raise, except for direct care staff in select departments.

Smith said the lowest wage state jobs are meant to help someone enter the workforce, not to provide a living wage.

“There are jobs in the economy that require minimal experience, minimal skills, and they're the entry level in which a person can enter the workforce and continue to develop themselves professionally,” said Smith.

Democrats voiced frustration about the reduction. Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern, D-Kansas City, said Missouri departments are losing workers to neighboring states due to low wages.

“I can go over to the Kansas side and do the exact same job with a lot less stress because we don't have the vacancies and I can make more money,” said Nurrenbern.

Many Democrats stressed how the market has brought entry level wages above $15 per hour and the state is unable to compete.

Smith and other Republicans emphasized that the wage is a minimum and state agencies could raise them by other means.

The house is expected to send the bill to the Senate Thursday.

Jana Rose Schleis is a M.A. student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She is studying investigative journalism and government reporting.