State legislators don't need higher salaries.
That's the conclusion of legislative leaders, who have
collected some surprising data showing that the salaries compare
favorably with those of legislators in similar states.
Missouri's $25,286-a-year salaries rank fifth out of the 16
legislatures that meet three to five months a year.
Senate President Pro Tem James Mathewson, D-Sedalia, said a big
pay boost could attract candidates who want the job for the money
instead of the rewards of public service.
His Republican counterpart, Minority Leader Franc Flotron of
Chesterfield, saw other negative consequences of a raise: It could
lead to a full-time, professional Legislature.
The Legislature meets 3 1/2 days a week from January to
mid-May. Most legislators have other jobs. Flotron said that that
keeps legislators connected to real-world problems.
Flotron told a salary commission last week: "If you tripled our
salaries, we'd find some way to spend more time here because we
wouldn't need a real-world job."
The compensation commission, approved by state voters in
November 1994, will set salaries for statewide elected officials,
judges and state legislators. State Budget Director Mark Ward told
the commission that all those salaries combined cost $35 to $40
A 10 percent across-the board increase would cost about $3.8
million, Ward said. "That's a lot of money at the margins, but in
the larger context of state government, it's not that significant,"
Legislative salaries are competitive for one reason: In 1984,
legislators passed a bill giving themselves automatic
cost-of-living increases each year - the same percentage that the
rest of the state worker force gets. That got legislators off the
hook, so they wouldn't have to cast sensitive votes on their own
Over the last 10 years, the automatic increase has boosted
legislators' pay by 40 percent. This July, it will guarantee
legislators a $1,517 raise.
Legislative pay is better in states where the legislature is a
f ull-time job. According to a report by Karl T. Kurtz for the
Center for the Study of American Politics at the University of
Colorado at Boulder, nine states fit into that group. The
highest-paid legislators are in California, where they pull down
$75,600 a year.
Kurtz found true "citizen legislatures" in 18 states, where
low-paid legislatures meet infrequently. At the bottom is New
Hampshire, which pays $200 for a two-year term. Kurtz put Missouri
in a hybrid group - states where the legislature has
characteristics of both the professional and the citizen
While Missouri legislators meet only 4 1/2 months a year, the
workload doesn't stop at the session's end. Legislators told the
commission that they are hit with constituents' questions
everywhere and every day, in churches and cafes, from early morning
through all hours of the night. …