By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

COON RAPIDS, Minn. (WCCO) — There’s no real movement on budget talks with the governor and legislative Republicans, which probably means a special session. That has some of you asking how much legislators are getting paid. Plus, how fast is too fast for a wind turbine? And why do we have two license plates on our cars in Minnesota? We’re replying all to your Good Questions.

• What do Minnesota legislators get paid? — Kay in White Bear Lake

Senators and representatives get $31,140 a year, as serving in the state legislature is considered a part-time job. If you multiply that salary times the entire legislature, it’s a little more than $6.2 million in salary for all members.

Plus, they can claim a per diem payment for food and housing; some legislators live far from St. Paul. That payment is up to $86 a day in the Senate and $77 in the House.

They don’t get paid extra in a special session, but they can request those per diems.

• Why don’t windmills run when it’s windy? –- Tricia in Chaska

“There are days when it’s extremely windy and too much wind will shut down our wind turbine,” said Gary Connett, director of member services for Great River Energy in Maple Grove.

His company has a large wind turbine in front of the building. There’s a wind speed detector on the turbine, and it will automatically shut down if it gets too windy.

“It’s about 30 miles per hour wind speed, and the reason it shuts down is that too much wind could harm some of the generation equipment and that cell on the top of the unit,” said Connett.

There are three brakes inside of the unit that are triggered when it gets too windy.

• Why does Minnesota require a front and a rear license plate? -– Harry from Ramsey

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, law enforcement officials have lobbied hard to have two plates. They’ve looked at the cost savings they could achieve by printing just one, and it’s not huge.

In 2010, the bid for printing plates was $6.9 million a year. To print one plate, it would have cost $6 million. Right now, vehicle-owners pay $6 for a set of plates. That is a little shy of the actual cost for a pair, but the overage is covered by people who buy vanity plates which cost $10 a set.

Going to one plate wouldn’t save the state any money, though it might allow the state to charge consumers a little less for their plates, according to spokesperson Kris Chapin.

Law enforcement said that the dual plate is particularly helpful in gas station drive-off situations, because often the gas station attendant will only see the front plate, and during AMBER Alerts, when members of the public are actively looking for license plates.

Arizona and Florida are among the 19 states that only require one license plate on a car, in the rear.

Jason DeRusha

Comments (4)
  1. Pork Chop Fan says:

    Were these 3 “good questions” submitted by 4th graders or actual adults?

  2. Bb says:

    Take away their per diem and cut their pay by 10 percent, that will help pay off the debt. Make them share the pain of their fellow American citizens.

  3. Susan says:

    Since legislators don’t get paid extra in a special session, but they can request those per diems, I think they should be denied requests for per diems. Legislators were unwilling to compromise. Compromise is why we live in a reasonable society, rather than being held hostage by extremes from either side. Compromise is the bed rock of democracy. Governor Dayton has compromised. I hope he continues to stand his ground for legislators to make compromises to meet him.

  4. Judy Anakkala says:

    I think if they have to go into a special session they should NOT be able to get any perdiem. If the rest of us don’t do our jobs and get it done, we’re fired. Either get rid of all of them (that would help the budget) or make sure they don’t get anything EXTRA for the time. Every expense should come out their own pocket.