JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri lawmakers and statewide elected officials will receive annual pay raises of 2.5% each year for the next two years, the first such raises to make it through the legislature since 2008.
The salary hikes come after the Missouri House of Representatives failed to pass a resolution Thursday that would have prevented the raises from going into effect. House members voted 97-11 to reject the increase, but that tally did not meet the two-thirds majority of the 163-member body required to pass.
Under the Missouri Constitution, pay scales must be set every two years by the independent Missouri Citizens’ Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials. The commission’s recommendations automatically take effect Feb. 1 unless rejected by two-thirds majorities in both chambers.
For the past dozen years, however, lawmakers have rejected the commission’s recommended pay scales, which determine salaries for House and Senate members, the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state auditor and state treasurer. Many legislators view the rejections of those modest pay hikes as symbolic gestures meant to curry favor with constituents in their home districts.
Even if the resolution, filed by Rep. Andrew McDaniel, R-Deering, had passed in the House, there would not have been sufficient time for it to pass in the Senate before the Monday deadline, with the upper chamber out of session until Monday.
Senate leadership suggested they were not opposed to the raises, regardless of their fate in the House.
Putting them off “can’t continue forever,” said President Pro Tem Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan. “Realistically, I think it’s time that the compensation has increased.”
“I don’t think anybody wants to live in a world where the only people in the legislature are people who have personal wealth,” said Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, who is the Senate majority leader. “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.”
The current salary for both senators and representatives, many of whom work in jobs outside of the legislature, is $35,915. That figure will now increase to $37,711 over the next two fiscal years. The net estimated cost of the raises for all elected officials is $518,729.
In debate on the House floor, an array of lawmakers from both parties echoed Rowden’s concerns about the ability to attract a qualified and diverse array of lawmakers.
Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, said he was concerned about a continued “gentrification of the General Assembly” if lawmakers’ pay remained stagnant. “We need people to be able to afford to serve the public.”
Rep. Steve Butz, D-St. Louis, agreed: “This body, this state, needs that representation from all forms of walks of life,” he said.
Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, emphasized the apolitical nature of the Citizen’s Commission in arguing against rejecting the raises and suggested its very presence on the House floor was a political stunt.
“This isn’t even going to the Senate. They’re not even going to be here tomorrow,” Basye said. “So this is just theater. This is terrible.”
Asked if there had been an intentional plan to allow the resolution to be voted on in the House only to run out of time before Monday, Rowden was firm: “There was no plan.”