ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Democrats in the Minnesota Senate are proposing pay raises for the governor, legislators and other top state officials beginning in 2015.
The state government finance bill released Tuesday would implement most of the recommendations made by an independent council that studied salaries. Under the bill, the governor would get a 3 percent raise. Legislators would see their annual pay increase from $31,000 to nearly $41,000 a year.
Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, authored the original pay raise bill and said the current salary keeps many people from serving in the House and Senate.
"At a certain point people leave the Legislature, except for us diehards, and go off and make a real salary and have a different job," Pappas said. "That's okay. We're a citizen Legislature. But if it prevents people from coming over and being part of the legislative process at all because they can't make the sacrifice, then that's not real healthy for our democracy."
Raises for state judges, which were also recommended by the Compensation Council, are part of a separate budget bill.
Past council proposals have fallen flat because lawmakers are squeamish about the appearance of helping themselves financially even as many grumble about the amount they make.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said he realizes it will be a tough vote for lawmakers but one that is overdue. A member of the Legislature for 19 years, Bakk said he has had one raise in that time and is finding it tough to recruit people willing to serve at the wage offered.
"I'm hoping we'll show some courage on the pay issue for legislators and for commissioners," said Bakk, DFL-Cook. "This can't just be a place where only the wealthy can serve. It needs to be a place where we can find good middle-class Minnesotans who can economically afford to take six months off their job and come here."
Second-term Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, said "the job is twice the job I expected it to be" but the prospect of authorizing raises while working through a budget deficit and tepid economy isn't ideal.
"Legislators should make more," Hall said. "It's a question of whether it is the right time to do it."
No pay hikes would occur until 2015 because the state constitution requires an election between approval and enactment.
The pay plan is not in a companion House bill, but passage by the Senate would keep raises alive as the final budget is set in May. The pay raise proposal is a more delicate proposition in the House, where members are on the ballot in 2014. Senators won't face voters again until 2016.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has said he supports increasing lawmaker salaries and those of commissioners as a way to keep high-caliber managers from bolting to the private sector. Under the plan, some of the commissioners who report to the governor would be eligible to more than their boss. Going forward, the state would conduct a comprehensive study to determine competitive pay rates for top appointed posts.
Salaries for the attorney general, secretary of state and auditor would also rise.