ANNAPOLIS — There won’t be pay raises in the State House over the next four years.
An independent General Assembly Compensation Commission issued a report on Tuesday that will freeze legislators’ salaries at $50,330 through 2022. The House and Senate presiding officers’ pay will also stay the same, at $65,371 for that time period.
The commission issues a report in the last year of lawmakers’ four-year terms, allowing legislators to accept the recommendation for the next four years or decrease it.
The only condition of compensation is that lawmakers can’t reduce the salary below the 1970 level.
Tuesday’s report represents the commission’s 13th quadrennial analysis.
For all but two reports in the last 47 years, the commission’s recommendations have taken effect as submitted. In 2006 and 2010, their recommendations were rejected by the Legislature.
This year, as in all other years, the General Assembly will have the option to approve the recommendations, reject them and revert to the previous pay and benefits structure, or reduce the salary levels.
The last commission report in 2014 included four annual increases, bringing the salary up from $45,207 at the start of lawmakers’ current term, to the $50,330 rate now. Until that recommendation, lawmakers’ salary had not increased since 2006.
The commission decided unanimously that the current salary level was appropriate, but asked legislative leaders for information to guide the next salary-setting process in 2022.
The commission wants to know how much time members spend on legislative duties, including during the nine months a year when the Legislature is not in session, and whether the salary, benefits and reimbursements under its purview create barriers to legislative service.
Most of the changes proposed this year relate to the legislative pension plan and other post-employment benefits.
- Decreasing the age at which a designated beneficiary can receive a lawmaker’s retirement allowance or death benefit.
- Increasing the age that a child of a member, who dies while serving in the General Assembly, may receive a death benefit from 18 to 26, and adding a provision that this benefit could be paid to a disabled child regardless of age.
- Authorizing a nonprofit organization as a beneficiary to receive a lump-sum death benefit.
- Providing up to three years of service credit in the Legislative Pension Plan for military service.
- Beginning with the next legislative term, removing the ability of legislators to purchase service credit in order to vest in the Legislative Pension Plan, which occurs after eight years of service.
Total compensation and expenses
During the last legislative session, lawmakers received a meal allowance of $47 per day and a lodging allowance of $101 per day.
In general, about 75 percent of legislators regularly use lodging in Annapolis during the 90-day legislative session. Thirteen percent of lawmakers submit for lodging occasionally and 11 percent don’t seek lodging reimbursement.
Most legislators consistently request the $47 daily limit for food for the entire session.
Last year, members of the Legislature claimed $2,085,495 for lodging, meals and mileage expenses.
Lawmakers’ fringe benefits, including health insurance and retirement subsidies, amount to about $23,000.
The majority of legislators participate in health benefit plans, with about 73 percent participating in the health insurance plan and smaller numbers joining the prescription and dental plans.
Lawmakers also receive a $18,965 allowance for operating district offices.
Comparison between states
The National Conference of State Legislatures defines the Maryland General Assembly as a “hybrid legislature,” meaning it is neither full time nor part time and that legislators may need to earn an outside income.
Only 12 percent of Maryland’s state legislators describe themselves as full time. The most common professional backgrounds listed by General Assembly members are business and law.
Maryland’s legislative salary is the 12th highest in the nation, according to information from the National Conference of State Legislatures and Maryland Department of Legislative Services. The state ranks third among non-full-time or full-time-leaning legislatures.
The commission also ranked legislators’ salary by budget size. For the eight states with a combined operating and capital budget within $6 billion of Maryland’s budget, Maryland’s legislative salaries were the highest.
In terms of ranking, Maryland’s Legislative Pension Plan ranks 12th in the country, according to the commission’s analysis.
Of the states with higher benefits than Maryland, four are considered full-time or full-time-leaning legislatures. Of part-time legislatures in the survey, Maryland ranks fifth.
Since 1964, 19 states have established compensation commissions, although the authority of those commissions varies. Maryland’s salary commission is similar to those established in seven other states.
According to the commission’s report, those states that have a compensation commission that either set pay or set pay unless vetoed have “significantly higher” average wage increases than those states where the commission recommendations are advisory.
Before 1971, the state’s constitution established legislative salaries, which could be changed only through a constitutional amendment ratified by voters in a general election. Except for an increase to $2,400 in 1964, voters defeated all constitutional amendments on legislative salaries from 1958 to 1971. Voters did support a constitutional amendment in 1970 to establish the compensation commission. That led to a steady increase in salaries, from $11,000 after the first commission recommendation in 1971.
The commission includes nine members: five appointed by the governor and four from the Legislature.
Maryland separately has the Governor’s Salary Commission, which sets wage rates for the state’s executive branch.
While a final report has yet to be issued, that commission is expected to recommend no increase in the salaries of the governor and lieutenant governor next term, so no resolution will be introduced to the General Assembly. The salary for Maryland’s governor and lieutenant governor are $180,000 and $149,500, respectively.