ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Minnesota lawmakers could be getting a pay hike next year.
State voters approved a constitutional amendment in November setting up a “Legislative Salary Council” to decide how much legislators should get paid.
Minnesota part-time lawmakers earn $31,141 a year. They haven’t had a raise since 1999, because they are politically sensitive to raising their own pay.
But even though lawmakers have been part-time since statehood in 1858, there’s now a year-round work load and a $42 billion budget.
“It’s a huge responsibility,” Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, a Democrat, said. “Anybody who thinks it’s a part-time job doesn’t follow the schedule of an average legislator.”
Dayton believes Minnesota legislators should earn a salary equal to the state’s per capita income: $52,000. That’s nearly double the salary lawmakers take home now.
There are nine that states pay lawmakers $50,000 or more. California pays the highest: $100,000.
But many upper Midwest states pay well also: Wisconsin ($50,950), Illinois ($66,000), Michigan ($71,685) and Ohio ($60,584).
There are 10 state legislatures considered full-time, or almost full-time, and which pay full-time salaries: California, New York, Pennsylvania, Alaska, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Most states are like Minnesota: Part-time lawmakers who work about two-thirds of a full-time job, but don’t earn enough to make a living.
This year, voters approved an outside “Citizen’s Council” to decide by March 31 what lawmakers should earn. And just like that: the new pay goes into effect July 1.
Skeptics say it takes from lawmakers the responsibility of doing it themselves.
“This is going to make it easier,” said David Schultz, a law and ethics professor at Hamline University in St. Paul. “It’s going to make it easier for them to get a salary increase. Now whether or not they deserve one is another story. But clearly this is going to be insulated from them so they can blame somebody else.”
Here is who will serve on the Council deciding lawmaker pay, according to the Office of Governor Dayton:
“Governor Dayton will appoint eight Minnesotans to this council, which will include one appointee from each Congressional District. Four members must be Democrats and four members must be Republicans. Additionally, none of the members of the council may be: A current or former legislator, or the spouse of a current legislator; A current or former lobbyist registered under Minnesota law; A current employee of the legislature; A current or former judge; A current or former governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state or state auditor.”
Here are some of the sources we used for this Reality Check: