Legislators Get a Pay Raise, Plus a Penny More Per Traveled Mile

State legislators will be paid $1,194 more per year in salary during the 108thGeneral Assembly than they were paid last session, an increase of about 6.28 percent that will be the first boost in lawmaker’s base pay since 2008.
The increase went into effect on election day, Nov. 6, in accord with a state law enacted in 2005, according to Connie Ridley, director of the Office of Legislative Administration. The law calls for automatic increases every two years based on the increases in average state employee compensation during the proceeding two-year period.
The first year the law took effect, 2006, saw legislator pay increase from $16,500 – where it had stood since 1988 – to $18,123. In 2008, it rose to $19,009. In 2010, after two years in which state employees got no salary increase, it was not changed, officials said.
The new base salary for a lawmaker will be $20,203, where it will remain for the duration of the 108thGeneral Assembly, which will end in November, 2014.
Under the same 2005 law, the speakers of the House and Senate get three times the salary of an average legislator. Thus, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey will now be paid $60,609 per year, up from $57,027.
In addition to their base salary, legislators also get $1,000 per month as a “home office allowance,” a flat rate that is not subject to an automatic increase. They further receive a daily “per diem” expense allowance for each day they engage in legislative work, which will remain unchanged in the coming year at $173 per day. The “per diem” allowance follows a federal government standard for calculating the cost of a motel and meals in Nashville and the federal figure was unchanged this year.
Legislators are also paid mileage for driving from their home to Nashville for legislative meetings. The mileage rate, also tied to a federal formula, will increase a penny per mile for the upcoming session, from 46 cents to 47 cents, for the 108th General Assembly, officials said.
Nationwide, state legislator salaries vary dramatically, according to the National Conference of State Legislators website – from zero in New Mexico to $95,291 per year in California.
Tennessee seems ahead of most neighboring states in lawmaker base pay. Georgia, for example, pays its legislators $17,342 per year and Mississippi $10,000. Kentucky gives its lawmakers $188.22 per day and Alabama just $10 a day, the website indicates.

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