Is it time to raise lawmakers’ salaries?

[private]Is it time to think about passing a pay raise for Georgia legislators, who last received a salary bump 18 years ago?

The State Commission on Compensation, an ad hoc group created by the Legislature earlier this year to review the salaries of elected officials, thinks the answer is yes.

The panel has completed a report recommending that lawmakers and other top elected officials receive substantial pay raises ranging anywhere from $12,566 a year for legislators to $43,000 for the lieutenant governor.

Since 1999, legislators have been paid a base salary of $17,342 a year, but as with all government compensation, you have to look at the complete package.

Legislators can draw up to $7,000 a year reimbursement for such expenses as office supplies, postage, and the “personal services” of a legislative aide. They also receive a per diem payment of $173 per day for the annual 40-day General Assembly session, which amounts to $6,920.

(Legislators who attend study committee meetings between sessions are also entitled to the per diem and mileage reimbursement for those days of work, an amount that varies from lawmaker to lawmaker.)

That brings the total compensation package to $31,262 a year, which isn’t big money these days but puts Georgia around the middle of other states that also have part-time legislatures. There are 30 states that pay lawmakers $30,000 a year or less, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Georgia’s compensation is also generally in line with what other states in the southern region now pay.

Alabama pays lawmakers a base salary of $44,765, but they get no per diem while in session. Florida pays a base salary of $29,697, with a $152 per diem. Tennessee pays a $22,667 base salary and a per diem of $220 for members whose residence is greater than 50 miles from the seat of government, dropping to $59 per day for those who live inside of 50 miles from the seat of government.

Mississippi pays a $10,000 base salary and a $142 per diem. North Carolina pays $13,951 in salary, a $104 per diem, and a monthly expense allowance of $559. South Carolina pays a base salary of $10,400, a $195.53 per diem, and $1,000 per month for expenses. Louisiana pays $16,800 a year, a $6,000 expense allowance, and a $156 per diem.

The Commission on Compensation is recommending that lawmakers receve a $12,566 raise to a base salary of $29,908, which would be a 72 percent increase. The lieutenant governor, who now is paid $91,000, should get $135,000 a year. The House speaker should be increased from $99,000 to $135,000 a year.

For other constitutional officers — Attorney General (currently Chris Carr): from $139,000 to $165,611; Secretary of State (currently Brian Kemp): from $123,637 to $147,128.

One state official who’s already in line to get a pay raise is the person who is elected to succeed Gov. Nathan Deal.

Legislation passed this year (HB 202) will increase the governor’s pay from the current $139,000 to $175,000 effective in 2019.

© 2017 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: legislative pay , State Commission on Compensation