OKLAHOMA CITY — The Legislative Compensation Board on Tuesday voted to increase legislative pay by 35.6%.

Pay will rise to $47,500 from $35,021. The increase passed the panel by a vote of 7-2.

The raise takes effect Nov. 18, 2020, said John Gilbert, a budget and revenue analyst with the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.

The increase came two years after the same panel, with an entirely different membership, cut legislative pay to $35,021 from $38,400, which had been on the books since 1999. The 8.8% cut was effective November 2018.

“It was punitive,” said member Scott Mitchell. “There is no doubt about that.”

He said reducing the salary was wrong.

Mitchell moved to increase the pay to $52,000 but later withdrew it.

Board member Scott Douglass called the $52,000 proposal a “shocking headline.”

The all-male panel has five members appointed by Gov. Kevin Stitt. Two members are appointed by the leader of the Senate, and two members are appointed by the leader of the House.

The salary does not include benefits and per diem.

The value of the old compensation package was $54,922, Gilbert said.

Panel members expressed concern about the need to attract quality lawmakers and about the public perception of a pay hike.

Member Brandon Long said if the pay is kept low, then those right out of college, at the end of their career or the wealthy will be the ones attracted to the job.

He said it is an around-the-clock job that requires a huge sacrifice.

“These are people setting the policy for our state,” Long said.

Chairman Robert P. DeNegri said the only thing residents will focus on is the increase.

“Understand what it is going to look like for taxpayers,” DeNegri said.

A lot of residents have lost jobs, he said. The board needs to find a balance, DeNegri said.

The head of the state teachers union said lawmakers should be paid enough that public office remains open to all.

“We are encouraged that our economy is healthy enough to improve salaries for all state workers and we look forward to working with the Legislature next spring to continue improving funding public education,” Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest said in a prepared statement. “Our students need teachers and support professionals who are paid appropriately, and our retirees desperately need a cost-of-living adjustment. All public servants must be able to afford to do their jobs.”

The board unanimously voted to raise leadership stipends.

The stipend for the House speaker and Senate president pro tem will rise to $17,932 from $16,300, according to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.

Other leaders will see the stipend rise to $12,300 from $11,200, according to the agency.

The House and Senate last session gave themselves an increased budget.


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Barbara Hoberock

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barbara.hoberock

@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @bhoberock

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