How much are lawmakers really paid?

There is an article floating around complaining about how low NC state lawmakers are paid.  While the article, and state law, mention that members of the General Assembly are paid an annual salary of $13,951 –  That figure is misleading.  According to the legislative finance office, it breaks down to $104/day for 7 days a week or $728 per week during session to cover all expenses incurred throughout the week and a round-trip home.  So the longer they stay in session, the more they are paid.  This year lawmakers made plenty, since they stayed much longer than normal. At the end of July, they had already spent nearly $300,000 in travel payments and almost $3 million in subsistence (meals & lodging).  I haven’t gotten final numbers for the whole session, but that gives you an idea.

The last increase in per-diem stipend was passed in 1993 and enacted in 1995, an increase from $92 per day to $104 per day.

The general statutes  state that members are allowed an expense allowance of $559 per month.  Since all member sit on committees that meet during the interim, we can assume they all receive this 12 months a year.  So that brings the total pay to $20,659.  Not too bad when you consider the per capita income of North Carolina was $25,284 in 2013.  And remember, it is legal for politicians to pay themselves a salary out of their campaign account, so I really doubt any of them are starving.

But don’t forget the Speaker, Senate Pro Temp, Majority and Minority leaders and the Deputy Pro Temp.  Their salaries are included in the state law as well.  Here is the state law for salaries of the General Assembly.  So in short, this is what they are paid as a MINIMUM:

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 11.52.40 AMThe idea of having a full time legislature is not needed in North Carolina.  Limiting sessions to shorter time frames so lawmakers can go back home and do their day job makes more sense.  We don’t need to spend more money on lawmakers salaries, we need to spend less.

 

 

Sarah Curry

Sarah Curry is Director of Fiscal Policy Studies at the John Locke Foundation.

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