Should Minnesota Legislators Make More Money?
Last election Minnesotans voted for a constitutional amendment taking the power to increase lawmaker salaries away from the lawmakers.
A citizen's commission that people volunteer to sit on is making the determination now, and even former Minnesota lawmakers can't agree on whether a raise is warranted.
Several former state legislators went before the citizen's commission and said Friday the stress of juggling a legislative seat with another job is pushing away good people from running for the state legislature.
Minnesota House and Senate members make about $31,140 a year in salary.
Those serving in leadership positions get a $12,456 annual bonus, and everyone is eligible for daily per diem payments - $96 a day for Senators and $77 a day for House members - during session. That does not include lodging expenses, a necessity for outstate legislators, and for which lawmakers can get reimbursed up to $1,200 a month.
Former Democratic House Speaker Margaret Anderson of Kelliher says the demands of the job warrant about twice that much. She says the state could drop daily expense payments to lawmakers and raise their salaries.
Former Republican Senate Minority Leader David Hann says the current pay is plenty because it's a part-time job.
A 16-member salary council has been formed to decide legislator pay every two years.
The governor and the Minnesota Supreme Court chief justice have picked the members of the council and it must be composed of eight Republicans and eight Democrats. No legislators, past or present, or their spouses are allowed to serve on the council, and lobbyists, judges and state employees are also barred.
Minnesota's very first senators and representatives were paid $5 a day in the 1870s. It wasn't until 1945 that the salary was raised to $1,000 a year.
Legislators last voted to increase their pay in 1999, when it was raised from $29,657 a year to its current level. Legislative aides now have a higher salary than their bosses, starting at $32,368 a year. Of course, they are full-time.
Nebraska unicameral legislators make $12,000 a year. Alaska legislators make $50,400 for a part-time job. California legislators receive $104,000 and are considered full-time. Michigan legislators are also full-time and receive $71,685. Minnesota's governor makes $120,000 a year and is considered full-time.