We were all told a few days ago that state lawmakers will only see a 1.5 percent pay increase in 2015-16. If only that were true. The truth is that state lawmakers will get an increase of between 2.8 and 4 percent, but such increases are hidden in line items that don’t draw a lot of scrutiny.
The citizens committee that sets legislative pay also sets reimbursement for travel and for constituent services. So while the committee only increased legislative base pay by 1.5 percent—the figure that drew all the headlines—total compensation deserves more focus.
Constituent services reimbursement will go up 20 percent over the current year, from $1,875 to $2,250. Having surveyed legislators in the past, I know it is common for lawmakers to not make full use of the constituent services reimbursement. It’s an unvouchered expense; lawmakers get the money whether they use it or not. For those who don’t, they get to pocket it.
The panel also increased per diem funding for non-Boise area legislators, from $122 a day to $129 a day. Boise-area legislators will continue to get $49 a day.
So, in a typical 75-day legislative session, an out-of-area legislator might expect to make about $28,600 a year, a 4.2 percent increase over the current draw. Boise-area legislators will get about $22,600, or about 2.8 percent more.
That’s a little different than perhaps what you read in the newspaper, about how lawmakers are getting treated just like other state employees. They're not.