Friction remains between House, Senate over pay hike

A legislative pay raise approved by Minnesota voters hasn’t been provided for in a new state budget, but some lawmakers say the Legislature is only harming itself in the end.

A state government budget bill leaves funding for the House and Senate flat. That means costs of the 45 percent increase in pay approved by an independent commission will have to be covered by cuts elsewhere. The pay raise — the first in two decades — is set to take effect July 1 and will result in lawmakers earning $45,000 per year.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, says he won’t let the pay hike advance, even if he might not be able to stop it in the end. Voters decided overwhelmingly last fall to take lawmaker pay decisions out of the Legislature’s hands and vest it with the citizens commission.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said not providing for the raise is short-sighted.

“We’re not putting the money in to follow through what the people voted on and what the salary council recommended,” Bakk said, adding that it will create problems as the Legislature’s reserves get emptied. “And those of you who are staff, I would be concerned. Because the Constitution says members get paid first, and you get paid second.”

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, shared Bakk’s disappointment and said the battle isn’t over.

“We will fight for that next year. It’s needed. It’s something we have to have to run the Senate,” he said.