A state House leader quipped Friday that he might not mind
changing places with Texas lawmakers, who are paid $7,200 per year,
compared to Oklahoma's $38,400.
For one thing, says House
Majority Floor Leader Danny Hilliard, D-Sulphur, the Texas
Legislature meets only once every two years for about 140 days,
serving roughly half the time that Oklahoma representatives and
senators meet during their annual sessions. Oklahoma legislators
meet for four months each year, from February through May. The
Oklahoma Legislature met biennially until the mid-1960s.
another thing, Texas representatives receive $8,500 per month -
that's per month - or $102,000 each year, for operation of district
offices. Lone Star State senators have an even sweeter deal: $25,000
monthly for district offices, or a total of $300,000 per
These funds can be used for paying staff, office rental,
buying equipment, paying telephone bills and for official
Oklahoma legislators receive no public funds for district
Talk about sweet deals: Although they contribute only 8
percent of their salary toward their retirement, Texas lawmakers'
actual retirement benefits are tied to the pensions of district
In one instance, says Hilliard, a legislator who never
received more than $7,200 per year in salary during 39 years' tenure
in the Texas Legislature retired with a pension of $92,704 per
At the same time, Oklahoma legislators contribute from 4.5
percent to 10 percent of their total salary toward their pension
plans. Benefits depend on length of service, final average salary,
and contribution rates.
This means that Oklahoma legislators who
are now subject to term limits can receive a benefit of less than
$20,000 for 12 years of service if they contribute the full 10
percent of their entire salary.
Why is Hilliard so worked up over
Texas' lawmakers' salary and perks?
Because of a move by the
Oklahoma Legislative Compensation Board last week to freeze
legislative pay until 2010, then tie subsequent salary increases to
the federal cost-of-living adjustment.
The concept passed the
board 3-2, but only as a guideline, and is not binding on future
boards. Legislative pay cannot be adjusted during even-numbered
years. The board last met in October, voting to keep lawmakers'
salary as-is, at $38,400 per year.
The pay freeze was the
brainchild of board chair Ken Miller, who has long been critical of
the fact that Oklahoma's Legislature tops the nation in pay for a
part-time lawmaking body. …