GRAND FORKS — Consider for a moment the commitment it takes to be a member of a state legislature. Although we don’t see it as a year-round, full-time job per se — some lawmakers may make it so, and that’s their prerogative — we do acknowledge the great amounts of work, travel and time required of lawmakers in every state.
And for many, it also is time away from their regular job, usually resulting in some level of lost income back home.
So, yes, we are in favor of modest, regular raises for elected officials at all levels, including and especially state legislators.
North Dakota lawmakers are considering granting themselves a 1.5% pay increase in the first year of the next biennium and 2% for the next year. At present, lawmakers earn $518 per month and, when in session, another $186 per day. They also receive a housing allowance of approximately $1,800 a month during sessions. All told, they average approximately $25,000 per year, with pay during the session considerably higher than their out-of-session pay.
The high rate during sessions is legitimate, since — during the session — lawmaking is without doubt a full-time job. They do deserve a raise, and, since they are paid by the state, they also deserve to continue to be included on the state’s health insurance plan.
Go forward with this plan, state lawmakers, since we believe it’s important that legislators and other public servants like yourselves are adequately paid for your work. Without decent pay for legislators, city council members, school board members and the like, it gets more difficult to fill these important positions with competent and qualified members.
These jobs require great diligence and extra hours. They are thankless and come with headaches that most of us would rather avoid.
Yet lawmakers and all boards must remember the importance of ensuring lower-level employees also receive similar, regular raises. They also must have the ability to sense the distastefulness of self-determined raises during hard times.
And now is an opportune time to remind North Dakota lawmakers that there hasn’t been a small boost in the state minimum wage in more than a decade. At present, the base compensation in North Dakota is $7.25 — too low, in our view. It shouldn’t be the $15 that many seek — not even close. But it shouldn’t be $7.25, either.
Lawmakers, give yourselves the raise you seek because it’s deserved and necessary if we, the people, hope to keep qualified delegates working on our behalf.
This other view is the opinion of the editorial board of our sister publication, the Grand Forks Herald.