Legislators’ Compensation to Increase to Nearly $58,000
Kansas state legislators are set to receive a significant pay increase at the beginning of next year. Their compensation will nearly double, amounting to almost $58,000. Legislative leaders, including the House speaker and Senate president, are expected to earn more than $85,000 annually. The pay raise was not the result of a direct legislative vote, but rather facilitated through a bipartisan pay commission.
Bipartisan Pay Commission Enables Pay Increase
Rather than voting directly on the pay increase, Kansas legislators established a bipartisan pay commission last year. According to the commission’s proposal, the pay raise would take effect unless both legislative chambers passed a resolution rejecting it by a specific deadline. Last week, an attempt to force a debate on the pay raise in the Senate failed, and there was no such move in the House.
Diverse Legislature and Financial Stability
For years, some Kansas legislators have expressed concerns about their current annual compensation of $30,000, stating that it is insufficient to support themselves throughout the year. Many feel that their duties as lawmakers hinder their ability to work outside of their legislative roles. The pay increase is expected to address these concerns and make the Legislature more diverse. Supporters of the raise believe that it will attract a wider range of individuals, including more females, minorities, and younger people.
Similar Trends in Other States
Kansas is not the only state to increase legislator salaries in recent years. Alaska lawmakers experienced a 67% salary increase at the beginning of this year, while New Jersey legislators are set to receive a similar increase in 2026. Lawmakers in New York currently receive the highest pay in the nation at $142,000 per year, following a 29% raise in 2023.
Varied Compensation Structures
Most states provide legislators with a salary and additional daily allowances to cover expenses during legislative sessions, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures. For example, New Hampshire legislators receive a salary of $100 per year, the same amount as in 1889. On the other hand, New Mexico legislators do not receive a salary but are provided with $202 to cover expenses during sessions.
A Historical Perspective
Kansas’ legislative compensation has evolved significantly over time. When the state was founded in 1861, lawmakers were initially entitled to receive $3 per day during sessions, up to a maximum of $150. It took almost 90 years for legislators to receive a raise, as voters rejected five previous proposals. Eventually, in 1948, a pay of $12 per day was approved. In 1962, voters granted the authority to set lawmakers’ pay through state law. The current figure of nearly $58,000 includes both a salary and daily allowances to cover expenses such as meals and housing.
Support and Opposition
House Speaker Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, expressed his belief that the pay increase is fair and commended the work of the bipartisan pay commission. However, some legislators voiced objections to the proposal. Senator Rob Olson attempted to pull an anti-pay raise resolution out of the Senate budget committee for debate but was unsuccessful. Senate President Ty Masterson dismissed the opposition as political grandstanding.
Concerns and Future Debates
Critics of the pay raise argue that it could lead to conflicts of interest with professional lobbyists and jeopardize the concept of a citizen Legislature. The opposition believes that constituents do not support such a substantial pay increase and that lawmakers should have the courage to debate and vote on the matter. Despite these concerns, a resolution proposing an anti-raise was not pursued further due to a lack of support.
Kansas legislators are poised to experience a significant increase in their compensation, aiming to address financial stability concerns and promote diversity within the Legislature. While the pay raise has drawn both support and opposition, it reflects a larger trend seen in other states. As the political landscape continues to evolve, the issue of legislative compensation will likely remain a topic of discussion and debate.