Georgia Senate panel backs letting voters set pay of lawmakers

Legislators would get a hefty pay raise

State lawmakers would receive a big raise if voters in November agree to it under a resolution that passed a Georgia Senate committee on Tuesday.

A bipartisan measure sponsored by state Rep. Wes Cantrell, R-Woodstock, House Resolution 842, would put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall to take the issue of legislator pay out of the General Assembly’s hands.

Currently, lawmakers are paid $17,342 a year, although that will rise to $22,342 in coming months.

If Cantrell’s resolution passes the General Assembly — it now heads to the Senate — and is OK’d by voters in November, legislators would be paid 50% of the median household income of Georgians, starting in 2025.

That would increase legislators’ base pay to about $30,000.

Under the proposed constitutional amendment, as the median income rises, so would legislative pay.

Cantrell said he originally decided on setting pay at 60% of the median income because a study showed lawmakers do the work equivalent to two-thirds of a full-time job. Some, such as the Legislature’s budget chairmen, work pretty much full time.

The Senate Ethics Commission lowered that to 50% and passed the rewritten bill 7-3 on Tuesday.

Lawmakers last received a raise in 2008, although this year they are are receiving the same cost-of-living increase as state employees.

Alabama lawmakers’ salaries are tied to that state’s median income. Lawmakers there are paid $51,734 a year.

Bills to raise legislative pay have failed to gain any traction for several years. After those failures, legislative leaders tried a different tactic.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted earlier this year that a committee of chamber leaders last year quietly raised the allowance lawmakers receive for days they are at the Capitol or in committee meetings by 42.7%, from $173 to $247 per day.

The per diem hadn’t been increased since 2006. If a lawmaker only collected per diem for the 40 days of a regular legislative session — most receive it for more days — the change would result in about a $3,000-a-year increase.

But that was done without a publicized vote of the full General Assembly. Raising the base pay of lawmakers — which can’t be done by a small group of House and Senate leaders — has been nearly impossible politically.

If Cantrell’s amendment is approved by Georgians this fall, legislators won’t have to worry about having to vote to raise their own pay in the future.


Annual base pay: $17,342. Going to $22,342 soon.

Daily allowance: $247 a day. The Legislative Services Committee raised the allowance from $173 last year.