PIERRE (AP) – A state legislative panel voted Monday to endorse a measure that would ask voters to give South Dakota lawmakers a significant pay raise.
The Legislature’s Executive Board unanimously advanced a plan that would link legislator’s pay to the state’s median household income. The proposal would ask voters to amend the state constitution to make the change, removing lawmakers’ ability to set their own pay for regular legislative sessions.
State lawmakers are paid $6,000 per session plus a per diem allowance. The measure set to be debated during the 2018 session would set legislators’ salaries at one-fifth of the median income. U.S. Census numbers for 2015 show that would mean a raise of 70 percent for the state’s 105 lawmakers to nearly $10,200.
Republican House Speaker Mark Mickelson, a supporter, said low salaries limit the pool of people who can serve as lawmakers to those who are retired or self-employed.
GOP Rep. Craig Tieszen said he’s tried to increase legislator pay in the past because “we increasingly lock out people that could well serve but simply can’t afford to serve.”
A state Legislative Research Council document says that legislators haven’t had a salary increase since 1998, although their per diem payments have risen.