March 10, 2023

Effort to establish legislator salaries committee passes first senate committee

New Mexico has the only non-salaried legislature in the U.S. A piece of legislation seeks to change that.

HJR 8 would allow New Mexico voters to determine if they want to amend the state constitution to allow legislators to earn a salary set by a citizens’ commission. It passed as amended on a 5-4 party-line vote in the Senate Rules Committee Friday.

Proponents of the legislation said that making the legislature salaried could help diversify the institution because adding a salary could open up the option to run for state office to those who otherwise would not be financially comfortable doing so.

“I think the public perception is that when we’re away from Santa Fe, after the 30 or 60 day-session, that our job stops,” committee vice chairman Leo Jaramillo, D-Española, said. “They don’t understand the amount of calls that we take, people who reach out to us, people who need us to represent them as their senators or their representatives.”

The nine-person citizens’ committee would be set by “enabling legislation” if voters approve of it..

The committee amended the legislation to cut out that the commission would all be “public who broadly reflect the political, cultural and geographic diversity of the state” due to it being enabling language, SRC Chairwoman Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, who proposed the amendment said. 

If the bill passes and a legislative salary is established by the committee, per diem would remain in place and legislative retirement would be reexamined through the Public Employees Retirement Association. 

More: Legislation to give legislators a salary passes House

The per diem rate is $165 per day in January and February and $194 per day in March that went up to $202 per day for FY23 which began July 1, 2022, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The legislation now goes to the Senate Finance Committee and then to the Senate floor. If it passes the Senate, it would need to head back to the House for concurrence because of the amendment.