Resolution Introduced to Pay our Legislators

A debate emerged from the Roundhouse concerning the introduction of a constitutional amendment. House Joint Resolution 5 (or HJ5) calls for a commission to propose a salary for New Mexico legislators. Since the drafting of New Mexico’s constitution in 1910, New Mexico has had a volunteer legislature, also known as a citizen legislature. This means our 112 elected legislators do not get a salary for their work. They accept their position on a volunteer basis. New Mexico is the only state in the Union that does not pay its legislators a salary. But rather, each legislator gets a per diem of $161 for every day that they are in session or in a committee meeting outside of the session time.

The Arguments For and Against a Paid Legislature

For decades, citizens have debated whether there should be a constitutional change to pay our legislators. Supporters argue that by giving a salary for the work that is done, it would allow for more people to run for office and would create a more diverse legislative body. Since the position is unpaid, only those who are able to take one to two months of unpaid leave from work, or people who are independently wealthy, are able to serve. Those who are in opposition to this proposal assert that New Mexico is already an impoverished state that cannot afford to pay politicians. The opposition also believes that by paying representatives, it may create career politicians who are only doing the job for money. This matter is compounded because legislators have a small window of time to study all issues that come before them during the legislative session, and they must rely on the limited staff they have at the Roundhouse.

The idea of paying legislators has emerged several times before, and it puts legislators in a difficult position. On one hand, a yay vote states they want to give themselves a raise. On the other hand, a nay dilutes the candidate pool and makes it difficult to perform quality work. It is certainly contentious.

 

Resolution Introduced to Pay our Legislators

A debate emerged from the Roundhouse concerning the introduction of a constitutional amendment. House Joint Resolution 5 (or HJ5) calls for a commission to propose a salary for New Mexico legislators. Since the drafting of New Mexico’s constitution in 1910, New Mexico has had a volunteer legislature, also known as a citizen legislature. This means our 112 elected legislators do not get a salary for their work. They accept their position on a volunteer basis. New Mexico is the only state in the Union that does not pay its legislators a salary. But rather, each legislator gets a per diem of $161 for every day that they are in session or in a committee meeting outside of the session time.

The Arguments For and Against a Paid Legislature

For decades, citizens have debated whether there should be a constitutional change to pay our legislators. Supporters argue that by giving a salary for the work that is done, it would allow for more people to run for office and would create a more diverse legislative body. Since the position is unpaid, only those who are able to take one to two months of unpaid leave from work, or people who are independently wealthy, are able to serve. Those who are in opposition to this proposal assert that New Mexico is already an impoverished state that cannot afford to pay politicians. The opposition also believes that by paying representatives, it may create career politicians who are only doing the job for money. This matter is compounded because legislators have a small window of time to study all issues that come before them during the legislative session, and they must rely on the limited staff they have at the Roundhouse.

The idea of paying legislators has emerged several times before, and it puts legislators in a difficult position. On one hand, a yay vote states they want to give themselves a raise. On the other hand, a nay dilutes the candidate pool and makes it difficult to perform quality work. It is certainly contentious.

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