Oklahoma’s Board on Legislative Compensation had not approved an increase in nearly two decades, but new board members made up for lost time with a whopping 35.6% increase.
On Tuesday, the citizen-led board voted 7-2 to raise lawmakers’ pay by nearly $12,500 a year. When the raise takes effect Nov. 18, 2020, lawmakers will earn an annual base salary of $47,500.
With the current $35,021 base annual salary — plus 63 days of daily expense money, a benefit allowance and state retirement contribution — the typical Oklahoma lawmaker made about $54,992.
By comparison, Colorado lawmakers make a base salary of $40,242. Arkansas pays its members $41,394. Missouri pays lawmakers $35,915. New Mexico doesn’t pay a salary, and Texas pays $7,200,
Oddly enough in Oklahoma, state officials admitted they aren’t sure what the financial budget impact will be from paying for these salary increases. In other words, we’re not sure if we can afford it.
And we wonder if lawmakers actually requested this raise. It doesn’t appear that the status quo salary level prevented good candidates from running up to this point.
Lawmakers spend four months a year serving at the Capitol. And keep in mind this major raise comes after former board members slashed lawmakers’ pay two years ago by nearly $3,400 a year — or 8.8%.
Since then, House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, Senate President Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, and Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt hand-picked nine new board members. The all-male members that appeared to be predominantly Caucasian agreed that such a raise was necessary to attract a diverse pool of lawmakers.
We’ll see who dusts off their resumes before the April filing period. By springtime, we’ll know if throwing more money at the Legislature will change the demographics of legislative candidates.