by Karl Kurtz
At a session of NCSL’s Legislative Effective Committee meeting at the Fall Forum in Phoenix today, Minnesota Rep. Kathy Tingelstad introduced the topic of legislative compensation by saying that it’s all about making sure that we can attract good people to serve in the legislature. She told a story of trying to recruit a bright young school board member from her community to run for the legislature. After thinking it over, her potential recruit declined because she said that she couldn’t afford to do it. The time commitment was too great for the amount of pay.
I presented an overview of legislator compensation across the states based on my estimates of how much legislators are paid. My estimates include what the IRS would count as income: salary plus per diem (both session and interim) plus any unvouchered expense payments. Click on the map to enlarge it and see estimated legislator compensation for each state.
I also presented data that show that on average legislator compensation has not significantly increased or decreased over the last 35 years, after correcting for inflation.
Alan Dolman, vice chair of the Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials, talked about this panel’s work in setting executive, legislative and judicial salaries. Washington is one of 20 states that have commissions to determine salaries, but the only one in which the commission determines compensation without review by the governor or legislature. By state constitution, the only way to overturn the Washington commissions recommendations is through a citizen-initiated referendum.
[Learn more about the Washington commission below the jump.]