March 16, 2017 05:13 PM
Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt is instructing House staff to not issue the $14,000 salary increases recently approved by an independent body.
Minnesota voters set the 45-percent raise in motion in November by overwhelmingly approving a constitutional amendment to create a Legislative Salary Council. That body decided last week to increase lawmaker pay from $31,100 to $45,000 annually.
It would be the Legislature's first raise in 18 years.
"Unfortunately, in this economy, for us to accept that pay when others are not getting that sort of pay increase really would be wrong," Daudt told reporters summoned to his office where he explained why the House would reject the raise.
Though lawmakers no longer have the power to set their own salary, many are still clearly worried about backlash from voters.
Daudt directed the House's financial controller Thursday not to implement the higher salaries on July 1 as recommended by the Legislative Salary Council.
But an hour later, Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said it's not that easy to reject a raise authorized by a council voters put in the state constitution.
"We had a commission that did that and they proposed that the salaries now be $45,000," Gazelka said at a news conference where GOP senators were unveiling a tax relief package.
"That's what the constitution directs. I don't know how you can possibly get around that."
Gazelka said his members plan to "move on" with budget issues and other legislation and assumes the raise will happen on July 1.
"Even if you say I'm not going to accept it, come July 1 I believe the courts are going to say you must do this because this is what the constitution says," Gazelka told reporters.
Daudt says the House will not vote to approve $2.8 million in annual funding to pay for the raise.
"We believe that the legislature has the constitutional right to appropriate the money if we choose to and we are going to choose not to do that," he said.
The Legislative Salary Council meets again Friday morning to finalize its pay-raise recommendation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
Updated: March 16, 2017 05:13 PM
Created: March 16, 2017 01:11 PM
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