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Change To Legislator Salary Comes Down To State Senate


The South Dakota House of Representatives is passing a Senate bill to increase legislator pay, initially, by tying their salaries to the median household income in South Dakota.
A State Senate panel also passed an identical bill on the same day.
That means the State Senate will determine whether lawmakers receive a bump up in pay.
It’s been more than two decades since legislative pay was addressed. Currently, lawmakers receive $6,000 annually. If House Bill 1311 passes the Senate floor, lawmaker salaries would equal one-fifth of the median household income as reported by the US Census. Proponents of the legislation say that would initially increase pay to about $10,300.
Sioux Falls Representative Chris Karr says increasing legislator pay should attract better candidates for office. He says the pay increase will impact future lawmakers.
“If we would have addressed this last year and raise pay for this current year’s salary, I can see where there may be some heartburn. But, we’re going to into an election year, now, where the whole body is going to get turned over,” Karr says. “So, the folks that this may effect may or may not be here from our current pool. So, I think it’s a good time to do this. If individuals have a concern about it, then they can elect different legislators.”
The house is passing one of four bills aimed at addressing legislator pay. One of those would have asked voters to decide the change in pay.
Fulton State Senator Stace Nelson says legislators knew what the pay was before they took the job. He says he vehemently opposes the changes to lawmaker salaries.
“When we have farmers and ranchers that are looking at terrible commodity prices, and when we have folks loosing sleep at night worried about meeting the bottom line and we’re so out of touch up here that they’re seeking to raise their salaries when our state, our fellow South Dakotans are having tough times, that’s offensive to me and I’m sure it’s offensive to a lot of South Dakotans.”
Because the house severely amended a senate bill dealing with legislator salaries, the decision to change pay will come down to State Senators.