JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Lawmakers are working on the largest budget in Missouri’s history, but they are also talking about cutting dozens of positions.

Missouri employs roughly 50,000 workers, which are the lowest paid in the nation. That number could be dropping because some Republicans want to do away with positions that have been vacant for years.

Earlier this year, lawmakers passed an emergency supplemental budget totaling nearly $4.6 billion. In that bill was money for the retention and recruitment of state workers.

“Unfortunately, because we are short-staffed in most of our departments, they’re having to use the budget for the empty FTEs [full-time employees] to actually move things around and pay people over time,” said Rep. Peter Merideth (D-St. Louis).

Sen. Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg), who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, wants to cut nearly three dozen full-time employees. The committee voted in favor of the proposal Wednesday evening, moving it on to next week’s floor debate in the upper chamber.

“I’m sure if we talk to the departments or the agencies, they would say that these are very important positions, but we have positions obviously that have been vacant since 2015, 2014, 2012, 2010, and 2011,” Hoskins said.

Hoskins wants the state to part ways with 36 positions.

  • 15 in the Department of Labor
  • 11 in the Department of Public Safety
  • 6 in the Office of Administration (OA)
  • 3 in the Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
  • 1 in the Department of Corrections (DOC)

“This is pretty minor compared to the what the number of FTE I wanted to cut,” Hoskins said.

Under the Department of Public Safety, the proposal is to cut four registered nurses and two support care assistants at veterans’ homes. Hoskins wants to cut one academic teacher for DOC and a program specialist for DNR. He also is recommending a handful of benefit program specialists be cut from the Department of Labor and two data processing managers from OA.

Vice-chair of the Senate budget committee said this reduction is a good idea.

“You have to remember when we passed the supplemental budget dealing with a few billion dollars in federal money earlier this year, we added a little over 300 FTE,” Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, said. “The net increase right now in the state workforce is probably still over 300.”

The other side of the aisle says these departments still need employees.

“We are hearing from the departments they are desperately trying to fill a lot of these spots and we don’t want to tale away their ability to do that especially as we are starting to have some pay raises that may help,” Merideth said.

The governor wanted to raise all state employees’ pay to $15 an hour. Instead, lawmakers want the individual departments to decide.

“There has been ample opportunity to fill these positions,” Hoskins said. “The reduction of 36 FTEs for literally positions that have been open for five years or longer I think is a pretty small cut.”

House budget chairman Rep. Cody Smith (R-Carthage) said earlier this year that departments can use money from vacant positions to give other employees raises or pay for overtime.

Next week the Senate will be debating the $46.5 billion budget where changes could be made to these proposed cuts.