Stateline Story

Legislative Pay: Good Wage For Some, Others' Pin Money

  • January 25, 2001
  • By Tiffany Danitz

In the second installment of a two-part story, Stateline.org takes a look at legislative pay in the 50 states. California, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Illinois -- the same states that pay their governors most -- have the highest salaries for legislators. Incidentally, nearly half the state legislatures gave themselves a raise last year, a Stateline.org survey shows. 

California lawmakers who meet nearly year round make $99,000 annually, followed by New York legislators who take home $79,500 and Pennsylvania state senators and representatives, who make $61,889.71. a Stateline.org survey shows.

Michigan, which pays its legislators $56,981 per annum, and Illinois, where the men and women who make the laws receive $53,581, round out the top five.

Most legislators receive an annual, monthly or daily salary as well as a per diem that covers daily expenses. Some states also provide transportation or housing stipends and out-of-session or constituent expenses that cover mailings and district office costs.

Legislative pay raises can be controversial as Massachusetts solons are learning. The Speaker of the House, Thomas M. Finneran, urged voters to approve a constitutional amendment in November 1998 that goes into effect this month. It ties legislative pay to the performance of the state economy.

Because the Bay State has been prospering of late, legislators' salaries will rise by $3,300 this year. Many voters are not happy however, because just six months ago, lawmakers doubled both their per diem and their office expense accounts.

Salary is NOT an issue in New Mexico, the only state that doesn't pay its lawmakers anything but a per diem to cover their basic costs. And in tiny New Hampshire, which has the largest legislature in the country with more than 400 members, pay is a nominal $200 biennially.

US Legislative Salaries: How States Rank (Not including per diem or states that pay lawmakers by the day or month.)

California $99,000

New York $79,500

Pennsylvania $61,889.71

Michigan $56,981

Illinois $53,581

Ohio $51,674

Massachusetts $49,710

Wisconsin $44,233

Oklahoma $38,400

New Jersey $35,000

Delaware $32,200

Washington $32,064

Hawaii $32,000

Maryland $31,509

Minnesota $31,140.90

Alabama $30,710

Colorado $30,000

Connecticut $28,000

Florida $27,900

Alaska $24,012

Arizona $24,000

Iowa $21,380.54

North Carolina $20,659

Maine $18,315

Virginia $18,000 in the Senate

Virginia $17,640 for Delegates

Louisiania $16,900

Tennessee $16,500

Georgia $16,200

Idaho $15,646

Oregon $15,396

West Virginia $15,000

Arkansas $12,769

Nebraska and South Dakota $12,000

Indiana $11,600

Rhode Island $11,236

South Carolina $10,400

Mississippi $10,000

Texas $7,200

New Hampshire $200

New Mexico $0


Nine states do not provide annual salaries for their lawmakers, but instead provide a daily salary or monthly salary with a per diem for days they are in session.

  • Kansas lawmakers earn $76.44 a day with an $85 per diem.
  • Kentucky legislators get $158.18 a day with a $93.50 per diem.
  • Montana representatives make $71.43 a day with a $75.00 per diem. 
  • Utah legislators get $120 a day with a $117 per diem.  
  • Wyoming lawmakers make $125 a day with an $80.00 per diem.
  • Nevada legislators get $130 a day with an $85.00 per diem.  
  • North Dakota lawmakers are paid $250 a month with a $111 per diem.  
  • Vermont legislators get $536 a week with an $87 per diem. 
  • Missouri lawmakers get $2,612.62 a month and $68 per diem.