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Panel Passes Plans To Raise South Dakota Legislator Salaries

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota lawmakers could be in line for their first pay raise in more than 15 years under measures that would also make legislators eligible for the same raises applied to other state workers’ salaries.

The House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved several proposals related to legislator pay, which lawmakers noted is among the lowest in the country.

“It kind of calls attention to where we’re at with our salary,” said Republican Rep. Roger Solum of Watertown, who sits on the committee.

Legislators’ pay was last raised in 1998, and lawmaker pay hadn’t been increased for a decade before then. Current legislator salaries are set at $6,000 per regular legislative session — or $12,000 for a two-year term — plus $129 per legislative day for living expenses in the 2015 session.

Two of the proposals work in tandem by saying lawmakers can be paid more than $6,000-per-session and applying across-the-board pay increases for public workers to legislative salaries too.

Republican Rep. Jim Bolin of Canton, who sponsored the measures, said higher salaries would attract more diverse candidates to run for office. He said the types of candidates who typically campaign for the South Dakota Legislature are farmers who aren’t as busy in the winter months, young people without family responsibilities, residents who are independently wealthy, retirees and those for whom salary isn’t a consideration.

Officers such as the governor and the secretary of state, plus Supreme Court justices and circuit judges, get pay raises in line with the bumps approved by the Legislature for state employees during the appropriations process.

“South Dakota has one of the lowest paid Legislature’s in the country,” Bolin said. “It’s just a situation where we’re going to be treated like every other state employee.”

The committee also passed a measure from House Majority Leader Brian Gosch to allow lawmakers to get salary and reimbursement for attending the inauguration of constitutional officers and the governor’s budget address.