Montana State Legislator Discusses Potential Legislator Pay Raise
The Montana Legislature’s Legislative Council is considering a bill that would raise the pay for state legislators. The bill would base Montana legislator pay on an average of the pay in Montana’s four neighboring states, a technique that was used to set the pay for the Governor and Supreme Court Justices. Senator Fred Thomas serves on the Legislative Council and says the bill should “probably be considered.”
"A lot of people are going to say you don't do this for the money and yeah I get that, we don't, believe me I don't, but we do it for public service," Thomas said. "It is fair people for something that is fair and certainly $11 an hour is not probably what people want out of their legislature. They want a lot more than that. They get a lot more than that too, but the compensation is real low. We probably should look and consider adjusting that."
The state constitution prohibits legislators from raising their own pay, so the bill would need to go before the full legislature next session for a vote, which would impact a later session. Interestingly, Thomas predicts that support and opposition to the bill won’t fall along party lines.
"I think the longer you serve there the more you know this needs to be done," Thomas said. "It is unfair to people that give a lot up and are not paid anything to do this. The people that are newer are more inclined to say well I signed on at $11, but don't change it because the voter might be irritated. I am sure if you asked most voters, when they have the facts in front of them, they would say yeah $11 is pretty damn low."
Montana legislators get around 90 dollars per day during the session as well as a food and housing allowance of around 100 dollars per day.