There’s a push by state lawmakers to give salaries to state lawmakers. According to an NPR study, New Mexico is the only state that pays its legislators a per diem, instead of a salary.
That per diem is for lawmakers to spend on food, housing and gas during the session. The resolution’s co-sponsors said the low pay is keeping good people from running for office.
“It’s very hard, and I will be very clear and say this institution is actually discriminatory and not allowing low-income people to be part of this process,” said Rep. Angelica Rubio, (D) Las Cruces. “Communities of color who are not able to make the sacrifice…It’s a sacrifice to be up here in Santa Fe.”
“It’s something that I see is way overdue,” said Rep. Roberto Gonzales, (D) Ranchos de Taos. “And for the purpose, some legislators find it hard to be here strictly on per diem.”
State lawmakers get about $160 a day in per diem during the session. For legislators who don’t live in the Santa Fe area, that has to cover hotel, food and any other costs. They also have to pay their mortgage and bills back home.
But House Republicans have a different take on the salary question.
“It suffices what I need,” said Rep. David Gallegos (R) Eunice. “I would like to say I get zero balance at the end of the year but the reason I do this is because it’s good for the state. If it costs me money, it costs me money.”
Republicans argue that this idea would cost taxpayers more.
How much would lawmakers earn? That’s not in the bill. That would be up to a commission to decide.
If passed, this resolution would go to New Mexico voters.
Most states with part-time lawmakers pay a low salary and a per diem for when they’re in session.