Proposed bill would triple lawmaker pay, first increase in over 40 years

Published: Apr. 19, 2023 at 10:55 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE (WVUE) - A Louisiana House bill could raise the salary for state lawmakers for the first time in more than 40 years.

State Rep. Joe Marino is proposing a bill this session that would more than triple the salary of a lawmaker from $16,800 dollars to $60,000 a year.

The raise, he says, is less than what the salary would be if it were adjusted to inflation.

“The public does not know that we are making a 1980 salary that has not changed,” said Marino. “The National Conference of State Legislatures estimates that we will spend 74% of our time being a legislator. 74% to me does not equate to part-time.”

On top of the salary, lawmakers get a per diem rate of around $160 per day during the session for expenses like travel, lodging, and meals. That money is taxed.

“For a person like me, who commutes every day, I’m not seeing the benefits of that, and you talk about the added wear and tear of my vehicle,” said State Rep. Kyle Green of Jefferson Parish. “I end up spending more money to do this job that I love, and it’s an honor of a lifetime to serve the people of the 83rd district, but it comes at a personal cost to me.”

The lawmaker’s salary is slightly more than Louisiana’s minimum wage payout of $15,080 annually. But without retirement benefits included, Marino worries the money restricts who can afford to represent their peers.

“Every year that we don’t raise this salary to a reasonable amount, we are limiting the number of people who can be a state representative,” said Marino.

Dillard University political analyst Dr. Robert Collins says the salary restricts the type of person that can run for office.

“A working-class person, a middle-income person, is not going to have the opportunity to serve in the state legislature,” said Collins. “So, some people may argue the state legislature is not really representative of the Louisiana population as a whole.”

Though Marino is not on the ballot this coming fall, many of the lawmakers he’ll need to convince will be, posing a potential challenge for the bill to live.

“Maybe a year from now when you have a brand-new legislator at the beginning of a four-year term you would have less opposition,” said Collins, “but it’s going to be a tough sell simply because we are a few months away from an election.”

Louisiana falls on the lower end of the scale compared to the other southern states in terms of lawmaker pay.

Mississippi pays $23,500, Alabama pays about $54,000, and Florida pays about $30,000 yearly.

Marino says he is still having discussions with lawmakers and other groups, so the bill does not yet have a date to move to the discussion in the House.

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