Missouri Governor Mike Parson

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson during a press conference on Feb. 5, 2021.

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson's administration on Monday pushed lawmakers to approve a 5.5 percent state employee raise that would kick in as soon as Feb. 1.

Missouri Budget Director Dan Haug asked members of the House Budget Committee for $91 million for raises this year, which includes $52 million in state funding. Parson's plan also would bring state worker pay to a minimum of $15 an hour.

Haug said Missouri government has struggled to keep and recruit enough workers at mental hospitals, prisons and other state facilities.

“We’re just trying to meet the market on this pay increase so we can get people to provide the services that Missourians need and expect,” Haug said.

The plan has support from Rep. Cody Smith and Sen. Dan Hegeman — key House and Senate budget leaders. But some Republican lawmakers on Monday raised concerns about promising state workers a raise without knowing if Missouri can afford it in the future.

"It won’t stop here,” Republican Rep. Brenda Shields said. “It will continue every year, and that increased salary will need to continue as we give a cost-of-living adjustment.”

The $91 million price tag covers only the last few months of Missouri's current fiscal year, which ends in May. Parson put the total cost of state worker raises at $218 million, including $123 in general revenue, for the next full calendar year.

Haug said department heads have heard of staffers who decided to continue working for the state in anticipation of a pay raise in February. He said the goal of the midyear raise is to “help assure our current state workers that we understand the amount of work they're putting in because of this pandemic.”