A state board in charge of determining legislators’ salaries decided on Tuesday to keep compensation for state senators and representatives flat. They will consider reducing salaries and benefits when they meet again in January.
The Board on Legislative Compensation voted unanimously to maintain legislators’ current compensation, which includes a base salary of $38,400, in addition to benefits and compensation for per diem costs.
No one at the meeting was in favor of increasing lawmaker salaries, and many were in favor of reducing them, in light of Oklahoma’s recent budget troubles, said board member Brian Bush.
“There are so many agencies across our state that have experienced cuts recently, so many state employees who have had the possibility of their jobs being eliminated because of cuts that could be coming even still to those agencies. I think it’s wise for us to consider any spot where we could save money for the taxpayers,” Bush said in a phone interview.
eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley reports that some members of the board expressed dissatisfaction with the recent performance of elected representatives in the state.
"I do agree we are not getting our money's worth out of our Legislature and I don't think we have for many years," said former Rep. Mike O'Neal, another Fallin appointee.
Keith Cochran, an appointee of House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, said he believed an increase would be a "slap in the face to teachers," who have gone several years without pay increases.
Bush said the board decided to postpone a decision on changing lawmaker salaries until its next meeting on Jan. 16. He said the board was waiting for more information about how salary cuts could impact the state budget. Bush said the board will also consider how much lawmakers in neighboring states like Texas, New Mexico and Arkansas make in relation to how much time they spend working for the legislature.
“Some have a much shorter legislative term, some of them meet every year, some meet every other year, there are certainly some differences. So just comparing that overall compensation number from state to state doesn’t give you the full picture,” Bush said.
Bush said he voted in favor of maintaining lawmaker salaries for now because he didn’t have enough information to make a decision.
“I felt that the right thing to do was to keep things as they are until we could get that additional information,” he said.
As a community-supported news organization, KGOU relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.