“Highlights with Hegeman” for the Week of Jan. 17: Bringing in and Keeping the Best

We all have seen the “Help Wanted” signs, and each of us has heard from employers who are struggling because of a lack of not only qualified employees, but anyone willing to come in and work. It is the same in state government. I realize it may be humorous for some to think about government employees, but for the most vulnerable in our population, not having that safety net — the men and women who work for the state and provide the services our senior citizens and children need on a regular basis — can be the difference between life and death.

To this end, the governor has proposed a 5.5 percent pay raise for state employees. This would be done through a supplemental appropriation that usually happens in March, but he would like for it to be done as soon as possible. This year, we also have federal COVID dollars we need to appropriate, so we can continue to get people tested and vaccinated, not to mention keeping our schools open and teachers working. Just like the regular budget we pass each year, the supplemental starts in the Missouri House of Representatives and then moves to the Missouri Senate, where I continue to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee. Because of the federal money that is a part of this piece of the budget, we have a limited timeline in which to pass this budget.

We have some of the lowest-paid state employees in the country. Unfortunately, this means a constant struggle to fill many positions, including snow plow drivers for MoDOT, corrections officers and a whole host of other positions throughout state government. Our state residential care facilities, prisons, mental health institutions and veterans’ homes have been hit the hardest with high turnover and a small staff of people putting in overtime day after day. We also need to reward those loyal state employees who have stuck with the state during challenging times. Rest assured, I will continue to watch how these dollars are budgeted and spent. This is an incredibly important aspect of the job as a state senator, and one I take seriously.

As always, please feel free to call, email or write with your ideas or concerns. My Capitol office number is (573) 751-1415, my email is dan.hegeman@senate.mo.gov and my mailing address is Room 332, State Capitol Building, Jefferson City, MO 65101.