House-approved legislation that seeks to ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment that would set up a citizens committee to determine how much to pay legislators. The legislation is only to enable the committee’s creation; further advisory rules would be set up upon the constitutional amendment’s approval.
The House approved HJR 8 on a 40-24 vote.
HJR 8 was previously sent back to the House Judiciary Committee which approved a substitute for the bill that simplifies the bill’s language.
Currently, New Mexico’s legislature is the only legislature in the U.S. that is not paid a salary; however, legislators receive mileage and per diem for their time during the legislative session.
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.
Legislators also will receive a pension from the Public Employee Retirement Fund, or PERA.
“If approved by voters, a final report (by the commission) is to be filed no later than January 1, 2026, with the Secretary of State,” the bill’s Fiscal Impact Report states. “The salaries would become effective on the first pay period in July 2026. A recurring general fund appropriation for FY27 would be needed. An exact cost of salaries for 112 members is unknown; however, the total cost of a salary of $50 thousand would exceed $5.5 million. These figures are beyond the range of the budget impact table provided in this FIR.”
The citizen’s commission on legislative salaries would be made up of nine members of the public who are New Mexico residents “who broadly reflect the political, cultural and geographic diversity of the state,” HJR 8 states.
An amendment was proposed by Rep. John Block, R-Alamogordo, that would cap the legislative salary to the state median household income.
The 2022 median household income in New Mexico was $54,020 per year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The amendment was tabled on a 37-23 vote.
Rep. Stefani Lord, R-Sandia Park, proposed an amendment that prohibits legislators from working for another political subdivision while elected to the legislature.
It was argued that the contents of the amendment were premature at this point in the process.
Lord’s amendment was tabled on a 39-21 vote.
The legislation now heads to the Senate. If the Senate approves the legislation, it would go in front of voters in 2024 and would not require any action from the governor.