News Column

Minn. Senate Gives Itself, Governor a Pay Hike

April 17, 2013

Megan Boldt -- Pioneer Press

Minnesota state seal

The Minnesota Senate approved pay hikes for state lawmakers and the governor, who haven't had raises since the late 1990s.

The provision was part of an overall state government and veterans' affairs bill, which just passed the DFL-controlled Senate 34-32 on Tuesday, April 16. There was no discussion of the pay raises on the Senate floor.

The salary hikes would take effect in 2015.

Legislator pay would jump from $31,000 to $42,000 by 2016 -- a 35 percent increase. The governor's salary would go up 3 percent over the next two years from $120,000 to $128,000 and reviewed annually after that.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said pay increases always are a tough sell. However, he added, it's hard to find people who aren't retired or wealthy to run for office when the Legislature takes them away from their regular job four- to five-months a year. Many Republicans came to him and said they personally supported it but couldn't do so publicly.

"I'm disappointed we didn't have bipartisan support for the bill," Bakk said. "I like to think people would vote their convictions and not do things that would just politically posture them better."

Five DFLers in swing districts joined Republicans in voting against the bill: Susan Kent of Woodbury, Greg Clausen of Apple Valley, Vicki Jensen of Owatonna, Kevin Dahle of Northfield and John Hoffman of Champlin.

Kent, who beat Republican Sen. Ted Lillie with 52 percent of the vote last year, said it was a tough vote

because the bill included plenty other programs she supported. But her constituents have made it clear their priorities are investing in things like education and transportation.

"I just think every spare penny needs to be put into those investments," Kent said.

The pay increases were recommended last month by the Minnesota Compensation Council, a panel with 16 appointees from all three branches of state government.

Minnesota legislator pay ranks 17th nationally, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But that doesn't include daily allowances for meals and incidentals.

Last year -- which was a shorter, non-budgeting session -- senators collected on average about $8,600 in per diem. House members were paid on average $5,600 in per diem.

The governor's base pay ranks 32nd among the states. The head of state can live in the governor's mansion on Summit Avenue (meals are deducted from his paycheck) and has access to a vehicle driven by a state trooper.

Gov. Mark Dayton has said he would donate any pay raise he receives, but he said he supports increasing legislators' salaries. The House, which is up for re-election next year, isn't moving a similar measure.


(c)2013 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.)

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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Source: Copyright Saint Paul Pioneer Press (MN) 2013

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