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.
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.
New Mexico legislators don’t get paid much. Some might argue that’s just as well. But the Legislature’s low pay is a bit closer to changing. The state House of Representatives elected on Wednesday to send voters a constitutional amendment that would repeal a prohibition on the Legislature paying its members a salary. It would also create a commission that would set the salaries for statewide elected officials, such as the governor, as well as legislators.