SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – The nation’s only unsalaried legislature in New Mexico is considering whether to abandon its amateur status.

A proposed constitutional amendment from Democratic Sens. Daniel Ivey-Soto of Albuquerque and Bobby Gonzales of Taos would enable the state’s 112 legislators to collect salaries. The proposal was scheduled for its first vetting Monday by a Senate panel.

Approval by the New Mexico Legislature would send the measure to a statewide vote on whether to amend the constitution. Similar legislative proposals have stalled repeatedly in recent years.

Story continues below

New Mexico’s “citizen legislature” of volunteer politicians has long been a source of civic pride in the state. Members receive a roughly $165 daily stipend during sessions and some money for gas.

Critics of the system say that instituting salaries could help eliminate financial conflicts of interest between legislative duties and outside careers.

Salaries for legislators would be set by the State Ethics Commission.

That seven-member commission was approved by voters in 2018 in the wake of a string of public corruption scandals as an arbiter of complaints against public officials, lobbyists and contractors. Its members are appointed by leading legislators from both parties and the governor.

The state currently has robust financial resources linked to surging oil production and federal spending on pandemic relief and infrastructure.

A roughly $1.6 billion surplus of general fund income in excess of spending obligations is forecast for the coming fiscal year, which starts on July 1, 2022.