ST. PAUL, Minn. — Republican lawmakers in St. Paul are disagreeing on whether to accept a pay raise slated for July 1.
In 2013, lawmakers passed legislation to include a constitutional amendment on the ballot, asking Minnesota voters to decide whether lawmakers should decide if they receive a pay raise. On election day, 76.3 percent of voters supported the idea to create the Legislative Salary Council and take the pay raise decision out of the hands of politicians.
The 16-member board announced in March that legislators would receive a 45 percent increase in pay. The pay increase would set lawmaker pay to $45,000 a year starting July 1, compared to the current salary of $31,100.
Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) is adamant in his refusal of the pay hike.
“Unfortunately in this economy, for us to accept that pay when others are not getting that sort of pay increase would be wrong,” Daudt said.
According to Minnesota Private Colleges (MPCC), the median income for Minnesotans’ is $58,476. While lawmakers have not seen an increase in salary in almost two decades, Daudt doubled down stating, “I have made that decision, we will not be accepting the pay recommendations of the council and I have instructed nonpartisan staff not to pay our members the pay increase.”
However, Daudt’s counterpart in the Senate, Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) disagrees with the Speaker’s decision to turn down the pay increase.
“That’s what the [state] Constitution directs. I don’t know how you can possibly get around that, even if you say ‘I’m not going to accept that,’ but come July 1, I believe the courts will say ‘you must do this because this is what the Constitution says.’ We aren’t going to fight it,” Gazelka told reporters Thursday afternoon. “My perspective is, that it’s now constitutionally directed, we asked the people to decide. I believe 80% said they didn’t want legislators to decide their own salaries. We had a commission that did that and they proposed that the salaries now be $45,000.
Daudt’s decision not to include the more than $2 million expenditure in the budget is irrelevant. According to Gazelka, the pay raise would come out of the budget automatically regardless of whether or not it was voted on.
“If it’s constitutionally mandated, that’s the first dollars they’ll cut out and we’ll have to figure out what to do with the rest of the budget,” Gazelka said.
The Senate Majority Leader said the House and Senate would have to work together to find a solution. The pay increase would give Minnesota lawmakers one of the highest legislative salaries in the country.