Local lawmakers against pay increase for state legislators
Sater: 'I would rather see state employees get a raise than myself'
State Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, said a pay raise for state representatives and senators recently rejected by Missouri lawmakers was the right move.
The proposal, recommended by the Citizens' Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials, called for a $4,000 pay raise over two years for lawmakers, and an 8 percent pay raise in fiscal years 2016 and 2017 for the governor and other statewide elected officials. If passed, lawmakers' salaries would have increased from $35,915 to $39,915, and the governor's salary would have increased from $133,821 to $156,088. Lawmakers have not received a raise since 2009.
"I don't think it's ethical for me to vote on raising my own salary, period," said Sater, who represents constituents in Barry, Lawrence, MacDonald, Stone and Taney counties. "And, if there's an initiative petition to do it, that's up to the citizens of Missouri."
Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, said every few years, the commission on compensation makes recommendations for raises if they believe the raises are warranted.
"The raises automatically happen unless we vote them down by a two-thirds majority," he said. "So, the House drafted a resolution to block the raise and passed it, then it went to the Senate, and there was a Democrat filibustering it, but they made a deal and ended up passing it as well."
Fitzpatrick said he voted in favor of blocking the raise for two reasons.
"One, we are not up there to make money," he said. "It's a part-time job, so it's not meant to be a big salary.
"Two, our state employees are not paid very well. I think we are 49th or 50th compared to other states. With there not being a pay increase for state employees, I don't think it would be right to accept an increase for legislators that does not include at least a cost of living adjustment for state employees."
A petition has been filed in the office of Jason Kander, secretary of state, that would raise the annual salaries of senators and representatives to $50,000 per year, effective in January 2017, plus any salary adjustment after the first day of January 2018. The petition would also include additional compensation for legislators in leadership positions in the State House and Senate.
"My concern is our state employees are paid less on the average than any other state," Sater said.
"We don't pay our state employees very well, and I would rather see them get a raise than myself."
Fitzpatrick said he does not believe such a petition will garner much support.
"I think a petition like that would probably not have very many voters in favor," he said. "It will probably be an uphill climb to even get the signatures."
Fitzpatrick said he would be more in favor of dedicating resources to create a career ladder to recruit and retain good employees when state-paid positions become available.
"That's not necessary for every function, but for some functions, like the people who help children in bad homes, we need good employees that we can retain because that's what's best for that position and for those kids," he said. "There are definitely some functions where we have a hard time attracting good people when the good employees we have decide to leave."
The base salary of a Missouri state senator is $35,000 per year, with a small per diem for expenses during session, which runs from January to May.