Republicans Weigh Options on Legislative Pay Raise

March 15, 2017 06:37 PM

Should lawmakers vote to fund the 45% pay raise that was recommended by the non-partisan Legislative Salary Council?  Lawmakers have not had a pay raise since 1999. Make your voice heard!

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Minnesota lawmakers appear to be in line for a 45 percent raise.

But don't expect it to show up in their paychecks any time soon.

Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt says he's exploring whether the Legislature can reject a recently approved $14,000 raise.

"I think there's a large amount of danger that goes with putting legislative pay in the constitution," Daudt said this week. "I did not support that approach. I didn't think it was a good idea."

An independent council created by Minnesota voters set lawmakers' first raise in nearly two decades in motion last week. The salary increase from $31,000 to $45,000 is slated to take effect in July.

Voters overwhelmingly created a legislative salary council in November that removed lawmakers' responsibility for setting their own pay. But the Legislature likely still needs to authorize the extra money to cover those larger paychecks. It will total about $2.8 million annually.

RELATED: Council Approves $14,000 Raise for Minnesota Lawmakers

Daudt said Tuesday he'd seek legal advice on whether the council's decision is binding on the Legislature. If it's not, the speaker said Republicans may opt out.

"I guess we need an interpretation of what this actually means and that's what we're exploring right now," Daudt said. "What does this mean? Is it binding on us?"

It reflects the continuing unease surrounding lawmaker pay even after that power was given to an independent body.

"The politics have not been removed from the pay raise issue," Carleton College political scientist Steven Schier said.

If lawmakers are forced to vote to fund the pay raise and it passes, he can imagine what the campaign brochures might say against anyone who votes in favor.

"Would you like a 45 percent pay increase? This is what Representative X did. You can imagine what the reaction would be."

The chair of the salary council is former state economist Tom Stinson. He told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he thought the council was "prescribing a salary increase, not recommending one."

But he said it's a legal question whether lawmakers need to vote to fund the increase.

Legislators like Rep. Jeff Howe, R-Rockville, say it's an uncomfortable position to be in.

"When you look at what the pay raises have been and what people have been making, and you turn around and receive a 45 percent pay increase in one fell swoop, it makes you a little uncomfortable to take that paycheck home," he said Wednesday.

The House originally planned to take the pay raise issue up on Monday, but is now waiting for legal opinions before their next move.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 


Tom Hauser

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