SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Should lawmakers be getting a paycheck? A proposed resolution aims to create a commission that would start setting a salary for them and other public officers. Some lawmakers said this is a no-brainer because there would be another incentive for people to get involved in state politics. Others said it’s all unnecessary.
Some state lawmakers said they should be getting paid a salary. “We are the only volunteer legislature left in the country,” Rep. Daymon Ely (D-District 23) said.
Right now, New Mexico lawmakers get a per diem of about $174 a day during the 60-day session to cover the costs of gas, food, and lodging. Nationwide, there is a wide range of salaries. For example, Colorado lawmakers get paid a base salary of a little more than $40,000 a year according to the National Conference of State Legislators. Places like West Virginia pay lawmakers $20,000. In Texas, that number is $7,200. Ely said the problem with having a volunteer legislature is that it doesn’t cast a wide enough net. “A lot of people can’t be in the legislature because they don’t get paid so we have a limited group of people to draw from like retired people and people who can afford it,” Ely said.
That is why Ely introduced House Joint Resolution 12 which passed the house judiciary committee Saturday afternoon. Ely said it aims to establish an independent commission to start setting salaries for a variety of elected officials. Republican leader Jim Townsend (R-District 54) voted against it. “I am against lawmakers that are sitting today voting on their own salary,” Townsend said. “That is disingenuous.”
Townsend said the state’s personnel department is already capable of handling this. “It is just not necessary,” Townsend said. “We have the capacity to make those decisions in house.”
Ely said there will be some amendments on the floor, but he expects no major changes. He expects it to fly out of the House and Senate which would put it on the ballot for voters. The commission would also set salaries for the governor, lieutenant governor, and judges.