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Pay Increase Proposed For Lawmakers

February 4, 2014, 5:00 PM by Sammi Bjelland

Pay Increase Proposed For Lawmakers

Senate Bill 142 would boost pay from $6,000 to $10,000 for each legislative session, which comes out to be an additional $420,000 per year to cover all 105 legislators. But lawmakers say, this isn't as self-serving as it sounds.

A 60-percent pay increase may sound like a big raise for most of us, but South Dakota lawmakers say it's long overdue.

"Inflation since the last raise, which was in 1999, would raise it up into the $8,000 category. So $10,000 is a figure that I picked as one that would improve the pay and I think allow more people to serve," State Senator Craig Tieszen said. 

The $10,000 paycheck would be on top of other benefits, like reimbursement for mileage each weekend and $123 for daily living expenses.

Sponsors say it may appear to be self-serving, but that's not what it's designed to be.

"The current legislators that are serving right now, it would not impact them. They would still be at $6,000 until after the 2016 election. So they would have to win this November in 2014 and 2016 before they would be eligible for the increase in pay," Representative David Novstrup said. 

"I think it's only fair that if we are voting ourselves a pay raise, in fact, it would not apply to us. Any new legislators next year would get the pay raise, but those of us that vote to increase the pay would not get it next term," Tieszen said. 

Both lawmakers say it's becoming harder to recruit new faces to the legislature. They hope this increase in pay will help create a more diverse future.

"I just think if you look around the legislature, you see a lot of retired people and people that are in a situation in life where they can afford to come to the legislature. I think the legislature would be well served if we had a wider variety of people and I think a pay increase would help facilitate that," Tieszen said. 

"The legislature, our job is to represent the people of South Dakota. So, if we don't have the right people here in Pierre, we're really weakening the legislative branch, which is really the branch that represents the citizens of South Dakota," Novstrup said.

The bill is now waiting to be reviewed by the Senate State Affairs Committee.

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