ST. PAUL — Minnesota lawmakers would get their first pay boosts since the late 1990s under a budget proposal rolled out Tuesday in the Senate that also includes salary increases for the governor and top agency leaders.
The governor's $120,303-a-year base pay would go up 3 percent in 2015 and again in 2016. The wage would then be tied to annual inflation.
Legislators would see an even bigger bump because their pay would be set at one-third of what the governor makes. That would take their $31,140-a-year salaries to $40,890 in 2015.
The rates largely mirror recommendations from an independent panel known as the Compensation Council. 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.
A separate budget bill includes more-immediate raises for state judges, which was another part of the Compensation Council's recommendation.