Kansas lawmakers advance legislation that would look at legislative salary and compensation. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA— House lawmakers advanced a legislative pay adjustment proposal in an attempt to remedy years of stagnant wages and make legislative careers more accessible.
During a Wednesday House hearing on the proposal, Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat, said most people couldn’t afford to make a career in the House or Senate due to the low pay and long hours.
“If I don’t ever want anyone to ever run against me again, one of the best ways I could do that is to make sure we don’t pay legislators a living wage,” Carmichael said. “That way, you’ll continue to have old men like me serving in your legislature.”
Kansas legislators get paid a base salary of $88.66 for every day in session, a figure that hasn’t changed in about 20 years. Lawmakers also earn a subsistence of $157 per day while in session. From April through December, lawmakers receive $354 every two weeks to cover expenses relate to constituents.
The proposal in question, Senate Bill 229, would create a bipartisan commission for the purpose of studying legislator compensation, salary and retirement benefits. The nine-member commission would potentially recommend pay increases for House and Senate members.
The commission would be created this year and would have a compensation and salary rate established by Dec. 1, with the first round of compensation adjustments implemented at the start of the 2025 legislative session.
Rep. Rui Xu, a Westwood Democrat, also testified in support of the legislation. Xu said he had to quit his previous job and take a 70% pay cut when he entered the Legislature.
“I don’t know if you guys know what the job market is like, but not many companies are scrambling to hire someone who can only work six months a year,” Xu said. “We’ve been able to stitch it together okay, I’ve been able to freelance a couple of different jobs, but it’s not easy; it’s not stable.”
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