A proposed constitutional change to senators’ salaries that would be placed on the November 2012 general election ballot was amended to a lower salary and advanced from general file March 5.
LR373CA, introduced by Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh, originally would have increased state legislators’ annual salary from $12,000 to $32,000.
An amendment by the Legislature’s Executive Board, adopted 26-0, instead would increase the annual salary to $22,500.
State senators’ last pay increase was in 1988, Lautenbaugh said, so the increase to $22,500 merely would account for inflation.
Imperial Sen. Mark Christensen spoke in support of the proposal. He said serving in the Legislature on a $12,000 salary is very difficult unless a senator is self-employed or has a flexible employer.
“Do we get the representation that is good for the state of Nebraska?” Christensen asked. “I really believe the middle class cannot afford to serve because of the limits placed upon the [salary].”
Norfolk Sen. Mike Flood also spoke in support of the measure, saying it would help senators who must work additional jobs to make ends meet while serving the state. The proposal is an important step in standing up for the Legislature as an institution, Flood said.
“To have the people represented, you have to keep up with the salary,” he said. “The $22,500 is not going to bowl anybody over, but it is going to make it a little bit easier for someone to serve.”
Valentine Sen. Deb Fischer spoke in opposition to the measure, saying it would deter from the Legislature’s reputation as a “citizen legislature.”
“We are not being paid to be here year-round and do not plan on making careers out of this and stay forever,” Fischer said.
Hoskins Sen. Dave Bloomfield said he opposed the increase because candidates are aware of the salary when they run for the office. Further, he said, he could not support a pay increase when funding to schools and children’s programs is decreasing.
The resolution advanced from general file on a 28-9 vote.