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Missouri Senate votes against pay increases for state legislators, judges

Thursday, January 29, 2009 | 5:44 p.m. CST; updated 10:13 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 29, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY - Barring future cost-of-living increases, Missouri's legislators, statewide officials and judges will be stuck with their current salaries for the next two years as a result of Senate action Thursday.

In a 32-1 vote, the Missouri Senate joined the Missouri House of Representatives in adopting a resolution to reject the salary-hike recommendation of the Citizens' Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials.

The lone dissenter said she was concerned that by voting against pay raises for some, other state employees might also be denied raises.

"The value of state workers is high, should be high," said state Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County. "We should value ourselves, but also other officials like the judiciary. We should value them and our actions should reflect those values."

The commission recommended raises for judges, legislators and elected officials. Under Missouri's Constitution, the recommendations automatically would have taken effect unless rejected by a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate. Earlier this week, the House had approved the resolution rejecting the raises.

Many senators, such as state Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, said they would not vote to raise their own pay while jobs are being lost throughout the state.

"Although these raises are warranted, I don't think the time could be worse," he said.

State Senate Minority Leader Victor Callahan, D-Jackson County, said raising pay for state lawmakers and judges would send the wrong message to the people of Missouri.

"Whether we're in war or in recession or in times of economic downturn like we find ourselves now, we are all in this together," he said.

State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said that while he would vote against the pay raises, he felt it was "fundamentally flawed" to tie the pay raise of judges to the pay raise of the legislature.

The commission also recommended a $1,500 annual pay raise for state associate judges.

Chief Justice Laura Denvir Stith of the Missouri Supreme Court stated in a news release that the Supreme Court understood the General Assembly's decision to reject the raise, but noted that the economy could improve in the next few months.


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