Consequently, the leadership of the Missouri House and Senate are in the process of activating the existing Joint Committee on Governmental Accountability to thoroughly examine the governor’s decisions leading up to and those taking place during the Ferguson situation. The committee will be taking testimony from many concerned citizens and will be granted subpoena power as needed to conduct the investigation. It is not a head hunting expedition targeting the governor. It is about finding answers. The people of our state deserve to know what went on and why rioting, looting, and burning of Missouri businesses was permitted to take place when the National Guard was supposed to be there. Another pressing question being asked is why there were no phone calls answered by the governor or his staff during this critical time.
It is the responsibility of any governor to do all he or she can to protect their state’s citizens and property from vandalism, looting, and destruction. While people have the constitutional right to peaceably protest in our country as well as in our state, very little is accomplished by unlawful and destructive acts, such as what we saw take place in Ferguson. This type of action only hurts a cause. We are a nation of laws and these laws exist so as to help ensure personal and property safety, and so that chaos and harm to others or their property is not tolerated or encouraged within our society.
A different newsworthy item that took a back seat whenever the Ferguson incident erupted was that of the Salary Commissions report. Prior to the Ferguson incident, the Missouri Citizen Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials released its 2014 report concerning elected officials’ salaries.
The Missouri Constitution requires that the compensation commission meet every two years to evaluate salaries for elected statewide office holders, the General Assembly, and judges to determine if an increase is necessary. The report suggested an 8% pay raise for both the 2016 and 2017 years. This would cover state legislators as well as statewide office holders, including the governor and the lieutenant governor. The commission made no recommendation to increase the judges’ salaries because these had taken an increase in 2013. The last time lawmakers and statewide officials received an increase was in 2009. Suggestions made by this commission will automatically take effect unless two-thirds of the Missouri’s Legislature votes against it.
The compensation commission is arguing that a pay increase is justifiable and necessary in order to keep quality people in the legislature. They were very resolute when making the statement that the General Assembly, as well as the statewide offices is more than justified in receiving a pay raise.
I am not only opposed to the suggested increase of salaries, but I also plan at this time to co-sign legislation to reject the proposal. This is not an appropriate time for elected officials to raise their salaries, as there are too many other pressing needs requiring funding and there is only so much money to go around. Even though revenue for next year is projected to go up, new Medicaid spending is projected to increase by approximately $200 million, thereby offsetting any gains.
The 98th General Assembly is scheduled to begin January 7, 2015, and I will keep you informed on legislation as it moves forward.