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Reality Check: Legislative Pay Raises

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) - For Minnesota lawmakers, the hours are long and the pay is low. Without a pay hike since 1999, they earn $31,140. A new plan would bring it to $40,800 in 2015.

In fact, compared to legislatures around the country, Minnesota is solidly in the middle. The National Conference of State Legislatures ranks Minnesota 17th in the nation, above the national median salary of $28,000.

That's not the whole story.

Even if legislative salaries go up to $40,800, Governor Mark Dayton says it's not enough. He's recommending that Minnesota lawmakers be paid $56,954 - the same amount as the average Minnesota family.

"They work very hard, drive long distances and respond to their constituents around the clock," Dayton said in a statement.

Even without a pay hike, Minnesota lawmakers are at the high end of legislatures in the Upper Midwest: lower than Wisconsin, but higher than Iowa and the Dakotas.

None of these numbers include per diem - those daily expense payments lawmakers get that can add up into the thousands of dollars every year.

Last year, in a short legislative session, per diem averaged $11,000 per member. Many business executives with comparable responsibilities would be paid 5 to ten times higher.

If you average that $11,000 a year in expense payments on top of their salaries, it is still less than the $43,043 it would be with inflation - and less than the $56,954 that Gov. Dayton says it should be.

Sources Used For This Reality Check:

Compensation Report

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Consumer Price Index Inflation Calculator

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2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table

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State Elected Officials' Compensation

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