MN Senate to ponder pay raise amendment

A Minnesota Senate committee has scheduled a hearing Thursday afternoon on a bill that would let voters decide next November whether legislators get pay raises.

The bill (S.F. 533) would place a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2014 statewide ballot. If passed, it would authorize an independent compensation council to set lawmaker salaries, rather than the Legislature having to vote.

The State and Local Government Committee hearing comes the same day that a conference committee begins working to resolve the differences between the House and Senate state government finance bills. The Senate version includes pay raises for legislators, the governor and other top state officials beginning in 2015. The House version does not.

Sen. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, is the chief sponsor of the constitutional amendment bill.

“It’s just removing a conflict of interest that we have in our state,” Eken said. “We shouldn’t be setting our own pay and we shouldn’t be debating what are pay is down here.”

Eken said he hopes his amendment bill moves forward, and that the separate pay increase provision in the state government bill is removed in conference committee.

Senate Republicans didn’t complain about the pay raises during the recent floor debate on the state government bill, but they are now.

Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, said he thinks it’s the wrong time to be discussing the issue.

“Hard working taxpayers out there are still concerned about their economic future,” Thompson said. “We need to be focused on creating a stable economy so that everybody in Minnesota prospers, not just legislators.”

Thompson said he thinks the proposed constitutional amendment is an attempt by Democrats to get the pay raise without taking responsibility for it.