PIERRE | The Senate agreed Tuesday evening with the House of Representatives that members of the Legislature should receive nearly $4,500 more when lawmakers start their new terms in 2019.
Now one of the chambers faces a decision whether to step forward and give final approval. The increase has the support of Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
The new amount would be nearly $10,500. The pay has been $6,000 per year since the 1999 session.
Senators voted 28-6 for the increase in HB 1311. Lawmakers also receive mileage and per-diem payments during legislative sessions and for attending official meetings at the Capitol and other locations.
The raise being eyed by South Dakota Legislature members would equate to one-fifth of the median household income in South Dakota each year based on the current population survey. House members voted 50-16 Monday for a similar measure, SB 214.
Sen. Jeff Partridge led the charge Tuesday in the Senate. “This bill looks to strengthen the Legislature,” said Partridge, R-Rapid City. He said many citizens believe legislators make much more than they do.
Fighting against it was Sen. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton. Employees of state government, providers of Medicaid health care providers and employees of public schools don’t know yet whether they will see any raises this year from the Legislature, he said.
“We’ve got major financial problems in the state,” Nelson said.
Many senators defended the proposed raise. “Look around the room. We’re retired or self-employed. The average person cannot give up their time to come out here and serve,” Sen. Jim Stalzer, R-Sioux Falls, said.
Sen. Bob Ewing, R-Spearfish, disagreed with one of Nelson’s points. “Legislative pay has not been on top of our minds this whole session,” Ewing said, adding that paying more to others has been.
Sen. Jordan Youngberg, R-Madison, said many citizens can’t afford to take most of the winter to serve in Pierre. He issued a challenge: “Give it back if you don’t need the money.” He pledged to give his increase to state government or a charity.
Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, described his “evolution.”
“I’ve done a little grandstanding in the past, I will admit,” Greenfield said, recalling the time he tried to cut legislator salaries in half. On Tuesday he supported paying more: “This is an ask that is still honest. This is an ask that is still appropriate."