In an article at ArgusLeader.com this morning, apparently lawmakers are set to give raising their salaries another go for the first time in nearly 20 years:
The South Dakota Executive Board on Monday is set to consider a resolution that would tie lawmakers’ paychecks to the state’s median household income. And that would likely mean a 70 percent raise for the state’s 105 lawmakers.
Currently, South Dakota legislators receive $6,000 a year in addition to per diem payments and some reimbursement for mileage.
The resolution’s supporters want to set legislator salaries at one-fifth of the most recent median household income. According to the 2015 U.S. Census, South Dakota’s median household income was $50,957 for that year, which would put lawmakers’ salaries around $10,191 annually.
The raise is warranted, supporters said, as lawmakers haven’t seen their salaries grow since 1998, though per diem has inched up over the last two decades. Their buying power is at the lowest rate since the current payment mechanism was adopted in 1946, according to the Legislative Research Council, and some are struggling to make ends meet under the current salary.
While South Dakota’s legislative salaries are among the lowest in the nation and probably should be increased, as a stand alone item salary increases for our elected officials tend to be rejected by voters, as well as being the subject of grandstanding by those who are in campaign mode against those who supported it.
Coming in a year when we’re likely to have a long ballot when looking at the number of voter proposed measures to appear, some may argue against it on that basis, claiming that the sheer number of initiated measures is validation that they don’t deserve it, despite the measures on the ballot not having been brought to the legislative body first.
And it may face further opposition if certain groups come out with an effort to tell voters “Vote No on Everything” (VNOE for short).
Looking at it cynically, one might wonder if this is a bit of a chess move to counter the VNOE movement, as the tech school measure in 2016 caused similar dissent among those who considered banding together to oppose everything, but abandoned the idea because of popular support for tech schools.
Stay tuned. 2018 could get even more interesting, if that was possible.