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The Legislature's Executive Board voted to support introducing a resolution that would ask the votes to approve a pay increase for legislators in Pierre. 

Journal file

PIERRE | Voters in South Dakota may get the chance to decide if state lawmakers will get a significant raise.

The Legislature's Executive Board unanimously on Monday to advance a plan that would link legislator's pay to the state's median household income.

The lawmakers currently receive $6,000 a year plus a per diem allowance, but under this plan, the pay would instead become an amount equal to 20 percent of state household income.

That would be more than $10,000 if it currently was in effect, Jason Hancock, executive director for the Legislative Research Council, told the lawmakers. That equates to a raise of more than 70 percent.  

To accomplish the change, voters must amend the South Dakota Constitution. Voters in 1946 changed the constitution and put legislators in charge of their salaries. Seventy-two years later, legislators now want to give away that power.

The roll call Monday unanimously supported introducing a resolution in the 2018 session for a constitutional amendment. The next steps are the House of Representatives and the Senate approving the proposal. Then the decision would be up to South Dakota’s voters next November.

Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, brought the issue to the board Monday. As speaker of the House, he presides over the 70-member chamber.

Mickelson is the chairman of the board. He contended Monday that self-employed people and retirees dominate the Legislature. Mickelson asked each member of the board to comment.

Rep. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, said he's tried to increase legislator pay in the past because "we increasingly lock out people that could well serve but simply can't afford to serve."

Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, called for the board’s recommendation of Mickelson’s proposal.

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Greenfield is the board vice chairman. As Senate president pro tem, Greenfield is the No. 2 officer in the 35-member chamber, below the lieutenant governor. Sen. Jeff Partridge, R-Rapid City, seconded Greenfield’s motion.

The board represents the two chambers on administrative matters and policy decisions.

Senators voting for the proposal were Republicans Kris Langer of Dell Rapids, Jim Stalzer of Sioux Falls, Jim Bolin of Canton, Partridge and Greenfield.

Representatives voting for it were House Democratic leader Spencer Hawley of Brookings and Republicans Steven Haugaard of Sioux Falls, Craig Tieszen of Rapid City, Mike Stevens of Yankton, Tim Reed of Brookings, Spencer Gosch of Glenham and Mickelson.

Missing from the roll call were Senate Democratic leader Billie Sutton, Senate Republican leader Blake Curd and House Republican leader Lee Qualm.

“It’s a runaway. It’s a runaway,” Mickelson proclaimed.

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