- Associated Press - Monday, January 30, 2017

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri senators on Monday voted to deny a pay raise for themselves and other elected officials following pressure from Republican Gov. Eric Greitens and hours of sometimes combative debate that continued late into the night.

Senators voted 25-2 against the raises, which would have meant an extra roughly $1,800 for lawmakers over two years. Statewide elected officials would have received 8 percent raises for the next two fiscal years.

The Senate vote came after Greitens personally lobbied lawmakers Monday to vote against the raise and publicly criticized them for wavering.

“This is outrageous,” Greitens said in a Facebook post. “That’s the last thing we need and it needs to be stopped.”

The raises would have come during what’s likely to be a tight upcoming fiscal year.

Democratic Sen. Jason Holsman, on the Senate floor, argued that without higher pay, only the “super wealthy who can afford to be here” will run for office.

“If we don’t start valuing this job, how can we expect other people to value it?” said Holsman, who was one of seven senators who recused themselves from a vote. They argued voting on their own pay is a conflict of interest.

In Missouri, a citizen panel recommends pay for legislators and statewide elected officials in an attempt to relieve lawmakers of the politically sticky issue of approving their own pay.

Lawmakers can vote to block the raises from taking effect, and the Legislature in recent years has been reluctant to accept higher salaries. The last time legislators and statewide elected officials received a pay increase was in fiscal year 2009.

House members voted 154-5 against the raises last week, but the effort to stop the pay hikes faced pushback in the Senate.

The intervention from the governor prompted a prickly response from some senators. Republican Sen. Paul Wieland of Imperial said his meeting with Greitens was “tense” and he “felt insulted.”

Greitens‘ spokesman Parker Briden declined to comment on the response.

Senators argued for hours over some lawmakers’ decisions to recuse themselves and not vote.

“I believe that there is no greater conflict of interest than voting one way or the other on whether more money goes directly into my bank account,” Kansas City Republican Sen. Ryan Silvey said.

Some questioned whether senators recused themselves to avoid voting and allow the pay raise to take effect. Nixa Republican Sen. Jay Wasson called it a “cheap way to get out of taking a vote” and said it was “cowardly.”

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