No Pay Raise for Lawmakers, but Legislative Budget is Going Up

Utah’s 104 part-time lawmakers should not get a general pay raise next year, a special, independent Legislative Compensation Commission says.

So, under current law – which says lawmakers can vote to reduce or refuse the LCC’s pay changes, but not increase them – the Utah Legislature’s individual pay will stay at $273 per day when they are “officially” at work.

However, the LCC did recommend that the current four days of “training” per year, per legislator, be increased to 10 days, and that lawmakers be paid for those days, as directed by the Legislative Management Committee.

Thus, if Republican and Democratic leaders decide to increase the number of “training” days, lawmakers will get $1,638 more each year — but do extra “training” work for those days.

The additional training days combined with the current training days will increase the Legislature’s budget by around $330,000 a year, the LCC recommendation says.

While each lawmaker gets the same pay (leadership members get up to $5,000 a year more for their added workload), because of individual committee/task force assignments, there are differences in total annual compensation.

The average legislator probably makes around $16,000 a year, clearly a part-time salary level.

Many Utah lawmakers continue to argue they lose family income by serving in the Legislature, usually through lost wages at their regular job.

Others many counter, however, that a few lawmakers – through increased client lists, more sales because of their legislative connections and such – could be making more money through their legislative service than if they were not in office.

In any case, it would be hard to argue that Utah lawmakers are overpaid for their civic work, as Utah’s lawmakers don’t make near full-time legislative salaries of upwards of $75,000 to $100,000 a year in larger states.

Here is the LCC’s 2016 official recommendation.

Here is a National Conference of State Legislatures’ study of lawmaker pay in the 50 states.

Utah ranks about in the middle when benefits are considered – and remains a part-time body based on how often the Utah Legislature meets and the pay of its members.

By per day pay only, Utah ranks 15th in the nation. But because Utah legislators don’t often meet during the year, overall their annual pay ranks 40th in the nation, the new LCC report says.

The Legislature meets for 45 straight days (including Sundays and Saturdays, when, in fact, lawmakers don’t meet in formal session on those days) from late January to mid-March.

They are paid for all of those 45 days and paid at the start of the general session.

Also, lawmakers meet at least one day a month, May through November, in interim study day.

However, depending on each legislator’s interim study assignments, they may meet one or two days more each month when not in general session.

These meetings include formal caucus meetings, special sessions, task forces, appropriation subcommittees, training days or other assignments made by the Legislative Management Committee, and in such ad hoc meetings each lawmaker is paid their daily salary plus other reimbursements, like travel costs.

Most lawmakers drive to the Capitol, reimbursements the same as average state employees travel expenses. But some outlying lawmakers, like those from St. George, take airplane flights (paid by the state) to Salt Lake City meetings – staying at local hotels during the general session.

This is the first year that lawmakers were given what amounts to part-time paid help within their districts, to aid in constituent services, public policy issues and such.

State law forbids those constituent staffers from doing any campaign work or other partisan assignments.

State legislative compensation is specially set up so that LCC automatic pay hikes (unless specifically rejected by an in-session vote) take place AFTER a general election – so lawmakers can be voted out of office if citizens believe their pay hikes are excessive.

Thus, the new LCC recommendations will take effect January 2017 unless reduced by the 2016 Legislature.