Two Minnesota state representatives, one Republican and one Democrat, filed a lawsuit Thursday against the state House and Speaker Kurt Daudt over legislative pay.
Rep. Marion O’Neill, R-Maple Lake, and Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, are challenging Daudt’s decision not to implement the pay raise that was set by a constitutionally mandated salary panel. The Legislative Salary Council increased lawmakers’ annual salary from $31,140 to $45,000.
The Senate moved forward with the new salary on July 1, but the House did not. It’s the first pay adjustment since 1999.
O’Neill said she wants the raise.
“As a single woman, and no other income right now because I sold my businesses, it’s really important for myself and others like myself that we have at least a cost of living adjustment for the last 20 years,” O’Neill said.
Moran expressed similar concerns.
“It’s really hard and challenging to live off our current pay,” Moran said.
O’Neill said it was not an easy decision to challenge the speaker of her own party in a court case. She said she told him in advance about the legal challenge.
“I highly respect him,” she said. “I just think in this particular case he’s wrong.”
In the petition filed in Ramsey County District Court, O’Neill and Moran contend that the House, under the direction of Daudt, “violated a clear and legal duty” to pay the higher salary.
Minnesota voters passed a constitutional amendment last year that took salary decisions away from state lawmakers and established the independent salary panel.
Daudt, R-Zimmerman, contends the enabling legislation, which was crafted by then-majority DFLers, was flawed because it still requires lawmakers to vote on allocations related to those raises.
During a news conference Wednesday, Daudt said he won’t ask members to take a “political sensitive vote” to raise their pay. He said he’ll leave it to the courts.
“I think it would be great for the courts to tell us and make the decision, is this constitutional, are we required to do this,” Daudt said. “If they say that, members will get the pay increase.”