State Legislators Deserve More for Their Work

little sketchy man with red question mark and blue paragraph

little sketchy man with red question mark and blue paragraph

Justine Schwarz

Perhaps some of the most unrecognized but influential people in government are state legislators. They are the ones at the ground level directly working with citizens and crafting state law. Throughout the nation, there is a very apparent disconnect between the work required of a state legislator and the salary provided.

While state representatives and state senators work extremely hard in their positions, the pay is underwhelming. In Minnesota, a state senator represents about 78,000 people, and a state representative or house member represents about 39,000. Part of the job descriptionof state legislators is to respond to phone calls, mail, and emails. Legislators often work nights and weekends to meet with various citizen groups and organizations. Representing a large group of people and being accessible is a full-time job in itself, even before all of the legislative work is considered.

Throughout the year, Minnesota state legislators work hard to consider the perspectives and concerns of citizens. However, for five months in odd-numbered years and three months in even-numbered, years the part-time Minnesota legislature is in session. During this time, state legislators work diligently to attend committee meetings and floor sessions while simultaneously holding office meetings and listening to the views of citizens and organizations via all methods of communication. During these busy months, legislators work diligently to represent citizens as well as craft bills that will become law.

Due to the vital nature of positions in state legislature, the most qualified and informed citizens are who will enhance the welfare of the state. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, salaries are low nationally with a median rate of $20,620, and Minnesota’s salary is $31,140. Being a “citizen legislature” means that many of the legislators in Minnesota are doctors, lawyers, and teachers. These salaries do not even come close to comparing with the jobs these qualified individuals are able to obtain. It seems highly unlikely that these state legislators will be able to maintain a career in a skilled field while in office. Thus, the low salaries are not appealing enough to attract the most qualified individuals, harming state government.

In addition to the time commitments while in office, election years hold other challenges for potential legislators. Considering that a term in state government is between two and four years, the position presents new obstacles for legislators in office. In election years, state legislators spend an enormous amount of time door knocking and campaigning, after all, the goal is to reach upwards of 39,000 people. This time commitment is not compensated but is an integral part of winning and holding these offices.

The position of state legislator is largely under appreciated and under compensated. Without state legislators, government would be dictated by people who don’t know or see the citizens while in office. State legislators are absolutely essential and important government officials who deserve more than they are given.