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.)
New York $79,500
New Jersey $35,000
North Carolina $20,659
Virginia $18,000 in the Senate
Virginia $17,640 for Delegates
West Virginia $15,000
Nebraska and South Dakota $12,000
Rhode Island $11,236
South Carolina $10,400
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.