Top elected leaders need salary raise, group says

Saturday, November 16, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Despite a bleak budgetary outlook, a state-appointed salary commission has recommended $5.6 million in pay raises for Missouri's top elected officials, state lawmakers and judges.

But the recommendations by the Citizens' Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials are unlikely to take effect. That's because legislators can reject them or simply refuse to provide the money for the increases.

"I think that in light of the budget problems facing the state, it's highly unlikely that the legislature would fund this recommendation," said Sen. Wayne Goode of St. Louis, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. "At this point, we need to try to find some money for state employees as a whole."

Created by voters in 1994, the commission is appointed by the governor, secretary of state and Supreme Court. It is intended to relieve lawmakers of controversial decisions about pay raises.

Lawmakers also refused to fund the pay raises recommended two years ago by the group.

In an unanimous vote Friday, the panel recommended that statewide elected officials and legislators get a 5.8 percent pay increase in fiscal year 2004 and another 5.8 percent increase in fiscal year 2005.

For example, the governor's salary would increase over two years to $134,421 from the current $120,087. State lawmakers' salaries would rise to $35,035 from the current $31,351.

John Ebeling, the commission chairman, said the increases for state officials were similar to recommendations of other commissions regarding state employee salaries. State employees have not received pay increases the past two years because of state budget troubles.

"It's not possible to solve all the budgetary problems on the backs of state employees," Ebeling said. "It's obvious that the salaries are not going to make or break the overall budget problems."

The commission also recommended, by a 7-6 vote, a $12,000 raise over two years for judges. For a Supreme Court judge, that would amount to a 4.65 percent increase. For an associate circuit judge, that would equal a 12.5 percent raise.

In all, the commission recommended pay increases for 603 state officials and judges.

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