Missouri’s chief justice urges passage of 8.7% increase for 3,000 court employees

(The Center Square) – The chief justice of Missouri’s Supreme Court thanked the legislature for increasing compensation for thousands of court employees and urged them to pass another increase during Wednesday’s State of the Judiciary address.

Chief Justice Paul Wilson made the annual report during a joint session of the Missouri General Assembly. He also urged the legislature to pass Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s supplemental budget request to raise salaries for all state employees by 8.7%.

“I want to thank all of you – on behalf of all 3,000 of our court employees – for the efforts you’ve made to increase their compensation, especially last year,” Wilson said, referring to the 5.5% increase the legislature passed and Parson signed into law in last February. “They understand the importance of the work they do, but having pride in what you do just won’t fill the gas tank or pay for childcare, and it sure doesn’t buy any groceries. That’s why I join Governor Parson in asking that you pass the recommended cost-of-living adjustment in the [fiscal year 2023] supplemental budget.”

On Tuesday, all 36 members of the House Budget Committee voted to pass House Bill 14, the supplemental budget. It provides 29 Missouri agencies with an 8.7% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for their employees.

“This COLA will help make sure the ground these employees gained in recent years isn’t lost to inflation,” Wilson said. “In addition, we are asking you to fund the overtime court clerks are already working to meet the unprecedented obligations imposed by the passage of Amendment 3 last fall.”

Amendment 3, a constitutional amendment legalizing recreational marijuana, also provides for those convicted of certain marijuana-related and non-violent offenses to petition for release from incarceration or parole and probation and have their records expunged.

Wilson also highlighted the state and nation’s mental health crisis and the problems it’s creating for judges outside the courtroom. He urged the legislators to consider passing bills protecting private information of judges.

“Violence and threats of violence toward judges and their families are increasing every day,” Wilson said. “When I spoke to you last year, I recited a frightening list of deadly attacks, both inside and outside Missouri. I won’t repeat them. But what I said last year is just as true today: We owe it to the those who serve in Missouri’s judiciary not to wait until we learn – in the worst possible way – that we waited too long, and did too little.”

Wilson also asked legislators to renew a $7 filing fee for automating court records, first enacted in 1994.

“This $7 filing fee – which has never gone up in the 30 years we’ve had it – provides an essential part of the funding for an essential part of our work,” Wilson said. “I urge you – actually I’m begging you – to renew it this session.”

He ended the address with familiar words used by governors and presidents, with one addition to help the quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday’s NFL Super Bowl.

“May God bless each of you,” Wilson said. “May God continue to bless the great State of Missouri. And, of course, may God bless Patrick Mahomes’ right ankle.”

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