- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A citizen panel is recommending raises for Missouri elected officials, though the Republican House speaker said Wednesday that it’s not likely to be popular with lawmakers - even though they would benefit.

Statewide elected officials are “substantially underpaid for the responsibilities required” and should see 8 percent raises during fiscal years 2018 and 2019, according to a report released this month by the Citizens’ Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials. That would mean incoming Republican Gov.-elect Eric Greitens would receive a raise of more than $22,000 during his first two years in office, going from about $134,000 to $156,000 a year.

The panel also recommended raises of about 2.5 percent both fiscal years for lawmakers, a total of about $1,800 added to the current roughly $36,000 a year.

Missouri elected officials’ salaries are set by the commission in an attempt to relieve lawmakers of the politically sticky issue of approving their own pay. The commission is constitutionally required to meet every two years to evaluate whether to increase officials’ pay, and the panel’s suggestions will automatically take effect next July unless two-thirds of the Missouri Legislature votes against them by Feb. 1.

Some lawmakers have been reluctant to accept raises, and the last time legislators and executive-branch officials saw a bump in pay was the 2009 fiscal year. In 2015, legislators rejected a mostly similar pay raise recommendation; that proposal offered a bigger hike of $4,000 for lawmakers.

The current recommendation would cost the state about $470,000 total.

House Speaker Todd Richardson told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he hasn’t reviewed the specific proposal, but said he expects lawmakers to move “very quickly” to block raises.

“I don’t think they’re going to be very popular in the General Assembly at a time when we’re not seeing a whole lot of wage growth across the state,” Richardson said. He also cited struggles to increase pay for state employees.

Republican Sen. Rob Schaaf, an outspoken critic in the Senate of the last proposed raises, cited similar concerns.

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