The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 10, 2013

Pay increases urged for top state officials

(Continued)

ST. PAUL —

Council member Bob Schroeder, a onetime chief of staff to then-Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, said he supports the recommendations and thinks they will probably fare better than prior proposals given that one party controls all of state government. The Compensation Council never even convened in the two years Republicans led the Legislature and plans produced before that fell flat.

“However challenging it is going be for legislators to vote for this, I think we have a responsibility not for existing legislators but for the future Legislature to recommend a salary that we think is appropriate for a state of our size and the size of our budget,” said council member Ann Mulholland, a nonprofit foundation executive.

House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said he’s heard interest from members of both parties in discussing higher pay, but he isn’t enthusiastic about the prospects of reaching accord. Neither is House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.

“I wish we could have the conversation without it becoming a political football. Inevitably, it does,” Daudt said.

For years, lawmakers have grumbled about the pay scale being a hardship. Minnesota technically has a part-time Legislature, but the jobs are mostly full-time for the four to five months of the session. That makes it hard for lawmakers to work a regular job for much of the year.

National Conference of State Legislatures statistics rank Minnesota legislator base pay at 17th nationally, but they also get daily allowances for meals and incidental expenses. The national median legislator base pay in 2012 was $28,000.

The governor is eligible to live in the state’s official Summit Avenue residence and gets around in a vehicle driven by a state trooper. The first family’s meals are deducted from the governor’s paycheck. According to the council, the governor’s base pay ranks 32nd among the states. In neighboring Wisconsin, the governor makes $144,423 per year.

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