Some Montana Representatives call for a pay raise - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Some Montana Representatives call for a pay raise

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A couple of Montana legislators are calling for their pay to increase substantially. Right now, Montana lawmakers make about $90 for every day spent in session. That makes them some of the lowest paid legislators in the entire country.

Members of both sides of the aisle are calling for the raise, but not everyone has thrown their support behind it.

Senator Mary Caferro of Helena is about to serve her 8th legislative term. She told our Bliss Zechman that while she understands why some are rooting for the raise, she just can't justify it.

Senate President Scott Sales, a republican, and House Minority Leader Jenny Eck, a democrat, think Montana lawmakers deserve a pay raise. A recording from a Legislative Council Meeting that happened in Lewistown on August 23 shows both believe they are underpaid. Caferro politely disagrees.

"It has nothing to do with whether we deserve it or not. Legislators, they put their whole lives on hold to come to Helena for four months to serve their constituents," said Caferro.  

Lawmakers in neighboring states, like Wyoming and South Dakota, make about $150 per day. However, Wyoming meets about 60 days total over two years while South Dakota meets every year for about 40 days. The proposed increase would roughly match what those legislators make. 

"I’m sure I’m pretty far in the minority, but it doesn't bother me. I think comparing ourselves to other states i think is sometimes comparing apples to oranges," said Caferro.

On top of that, Caferro says it's hard to justify a raise after the recent budget cuts. 

"We have other things to take care of first.. Other needs that are much more important than my wage."

Caferro, like many other state legislators, holds a separate full time job.  Even so, she  says being a lawmaker has its benefits. They're covered by extensive health insurance year-round. While in session, they get per diem pay, which covers everyday expenses like room and board. Plus, legislators can access a retirement plan.

"Its a great  benefit. We're very lucky," said Caferro.  

Neither Eck nor Sales would be serving when the proposed increase were to take effect. However, Caferro says she would likely benefit. If passed in the upcoming session, the increase would take effect in 20-21.

We reached out to both Representative Eck and Senator Sales, but neither have gotten back to us yet.
 

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