In Short

Price tag for increasing Oregon legislator salaries grows bigger

By: - February 24, 2022 5:22 pm

Oregon legislators would get even higher salaries than originally estimated if a bill raising salaries passes, according to a new report from legislative analysts. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

Oregon legislators would make almost $63,500, if they vote to tie their salaries to the state’s average wage, according to an updated report from legislative analysts.

That’s $6,000 more than what was originally calculated under terms of the proposed legislative raise.

A Senate committee advanced Senate Bill 1566 on Tuesday, with proponents arguing that higher wages would improve diversity in the Legislature and reduce turnover. At that time, the legislative analysts said passing it would result in paying lawmakers $58,500 beginning in January 2023. They now are paid slightly less than $33,000. 

Their new salary would increase every two years if average wages in Oregon increase, but it couldn’t decrease more than 2% in a year, even if average wages fall. The Senate president and House speaker receive twice the salary as other lawmakers. 

An updated analysis posted Thursday shows that the average salary in Oregon in 2021 was actually $63,464, so lawmaker salary would be set at that amount beginning in January 2023 if the bill passses. 

The higher wage also means more total cost to taxpayers, requiring an extra $1.7 million to cover the first six months of 2023 and then $7.1 million in the two-year budget cycle that begins in July 2023.

Only California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania pay their legislators more than $63,000, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Legislatures in those states run full time, while the Oregon Legislature is in session for just more than one-quarter of the days in a two-year period. 

The pay increase proposal is awaiting a hearing before the Legislature’s budget-writing committee.

Separately, Willamette Week reported that legislative lawyers advised Senate Republicans that a provision in the proposal could violate pay equity laws by providing a child care stipend of up to $1,000 monthly for legislators with children younger than 13. Opinions provided by legislative attorneys aren’t public, and a Senate GOP spokesman didn’t respond to a request to share it.

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Julia Shumway
Julia Shumway

Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.