Picks coming soon for lawmaker pay panel

Work is underway to set up a new state panel to decide the salaries of Minnesota legislators.

Minnesotans voted overwhelming this month for a constitutional amendment that takes away lawmakers’ ability to set their own pay. From now on, a non-elected Legislative Salary Council will have that power.

The application window for membership on the council runs through Dec. 5.

Gov. Mark Dayton and Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea will each appoint half of the council members. The 16-member panel must be an equal mix of Republicans and Democrats, and include two citizens from each Congressional district.

Dayton told reporters Monday that he believes legislators have a “huge responsibility” and “are terribly underpaid.” He favors a pay increase. But Dayton stressed that his council appointments won’t be based on whether people have a similar view.

“I want a fair-minded commission, people who are responsible and people with good judgement,” Dayton said. “Then they’ll make their own decisions.”

State law requires the council to hold its first meeting by Jan. 15.

The council will then prescribe salaries by March 31 of each odd-numbered year.