MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota State Representatives are getting a big raise -- a $14,000 pay hike. It's a raise that voters set in motion, and a special citizens' commission recommended.
It's the first pay hike for lawmakers since Jesse Ventura was Minnesota governor and Bill Clinton was the U.S. President. Members of the Minnesota House and Senate got a raise in 1999. And it hasn't gone up since then, until now.
Voters in 2016 approved a Legislative Salary Council to set lawmaker pay, and that Council gave lawmakers a 45 percent pay hike, from $31,140 to $45,000, effective July 1.
That's roughly what their salaries would be if their paychecks had kept up with inflation.
"Minnesota's median household income has increased from $47,035 in 1999 to $68,730 in 2015, a change of 46.1 percent," the council wrote in a report. "If we believe that legislators' salaries should be adjusted to reflect the changes in the income of average Minnesotans, their pay would be $45,503."
Not everyone thinks it's a good idea. Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt denied the raise to Representatives, because they are required to approve the taxpayer dollars for the pay hike.
"I know that members have a huge sacrifice to serve here. I do myself," Daudt said July 19, "but I also can't ask people to take a politically sensitive vote to raise their own pay."
Daudt relented only after two state Representatives filed a lawsuit that claimed denying the pay hike is unconstitutional.
Minnesota now joins 13 other states with lawmaker salaries of $45,000 or more, including Midwestern states like Wisconsin ($50,950), Illinois ($67,836), Michigan ($71,685), Ohio ($60,584) and Pennsylvania ($86,478).
Lawmakers say the pay hike is justified because of the long hours on the job, and that it's hard to get good people to run for office and support a family on $31,000 a year.
The $14,000 raise is reflected on the legislator paychecks issued today.
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