By Amanda Zoch
As states work to mitigate major budget shortfalls, some legislators have looked to their own salaries for savings.
In July, Colorado lawmakers passed HB 20-1423, a bipartisan effort suspending a scheduled salary increase and freezing legislators’ annual base compensation at $40,242. In Illinois, state law requires that legislators receive an annual cost of living increase; though the legislature passed a budget including that increase, it set aside $0 to fund it—effectively instituting a pay freeze. And in Washington, where legislators cannot turn down raises even as state workers face furloughs, some lawmakers chose to donate their July 1, 2020, raise of $4,115 to worthy causes.
For context, the 2020 average annual salary (for the 41 states that pay legislators per year—others do so by day, week or month) is $38,370. Although that average is up slightly from 2019’s average of $37,800, it is still well below $53,490—the average annual salary for Americans, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2019.
In full-time legislatures—where elected officials report spending at least 80% of their work week legislating—that average jumps up to $75,415. Full-time legislatures include the three highest-paid legislatures: California, New York and Pennsylvania.
Lawmakers serving in hybrid legislatures—where legislators spend about two-thirds of a full-time job lawmaking and usually require a second source of income—earn an average of $30,485 per year.
Those serving in part-time legislatures—where legislators spend just over half of their time lawmaking—earn $12,838. This includes New Hampshire, where legislators earn $100/year, and New Mexico, the only state where lawmakers do not receive a salary. New Mexico legislators do, however, receive per diem, which means they earn more than their counterparts in New Hampshire.
For more information on legislator salaries, as well as per diem and mileage reimbursement rates, view NCSL’s resource on 2020 Legislator Compensation. Also check out our Legislator Compensation Overview to learn about trends, the “pay problem” and more.
Amanda Zoch is an NCSL policy specialist and Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow.