July 13, 2017 07:07 PM
When members of the Minnesota Senate received their paychecks earlier this month, they received their first pay raise since 1999.
But members of the Minnesota House of Representatives weren't as lucky.
As of July 1st, Minnesota Senators are earning $45,000 per year - a figure recommended by the Legislative Salary Council in March.
House members, though, remain at $31,100.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said the salary council was approved by voters and put in the Minnesota Constitution to recommend salary levels for the legislature.
Gazelka decided to authorize the pay raises, even though the legislature did not pass funding to specifically pay for them. He said the Senate will use money saved from a hiring freeze and reserve funds to pay for the raises.
"Whether we had money or not, it's constitutionally mandated to be paid and so that was never an issue for me," Gazelka said Thursday. "If they said our salary was to be $20,000, we wouldn't have paid ourselves $31,000 either. So it was just a clear-cut choice for me. It always has been. The constitution directs it and I try to follow the constitution."
Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt is taking a far different approach. He said the legislature should be more focused on "helping middle-class families" than on a pay raise for themselves.
But Democratic critics of Daudt said it's all about politics.
"He is desperate to become governor and is trying to find every single way to demonstrate to the public that he's trying to block this pay raise," says Rep. Jon Applebaum, DFL-Minnetonka.
The issue is complicated by Governor Mark Dayton's veto of funding for the Minnesota House and Senate. It's been temporarily restored while a judge considers a lawsuit against the governor filed by lawmakers.
A separate lawsuit calls for the legislature to implement the pay raises recommended by the Legislative Salary Council. It might take a judge's order to get a pay raise for members of the Minnesota House.
Updated: July 13, 2017 07:07 PM
Created: July 13, 2017 05:52 PM
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