Minnesota House members will get pay raises after all.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt announced Friday night, July 21, that he will instruct House staffers to begin paying representatives $45,000 a year, matching what senators have been receiving.
The decision came after two lawmakers sued him for not allowing the raises, which were ordered by an independent commission voters established last year to set legislative pay.
Daudt said as recently as Wednesday that he thought the Legislature would have to approve any pay raise, and he did not plan to ask fellow representatives to take that politically sensitive vote. That changed Friday night.
“While I personally object to the establishment of the Legislative Salary Council, Minnesota voters supported the approach,” Daudt said. “In light of recent court rulings and with the advice of counsel, it has become increasingly clear that the Minnesota House is constitutionally required to pay legislators the prescribed amount. We intend to move forward by instituting the salary set by the council.”
The decision means representatives will get $45,000 a year instead of $31,1400.
“It seems unnecessary to use taxpayer dollars (in a court case) to ultimately receive the same direction from the courts,” Daudt said.
A Ramsey County judge this week threw out a lawsuit by an advocacy group asking that the raises be paid. The judge said the group was not affected by Daudt’s original decision not to raise pay, so could not sue.
However, soon after the court ruling, two lawmakers filed a similar suit, which was expected to be accepted by the court.
It was not clear if representatives would get back pay to July 1, when the higher salary was to have begun.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said he thought the Legislature was required to raise the pay, so he authorized senators’ raises on July 1.
Appearing on public television’s “Almanac” show Friday night, Daudt urged Gov. Mark Dayton to give up on a second court case.
The Republican-controlled Legislature won a case filed after Dayton vetoed all funding for the House and Senate, which the judge said effectively shut down the Legislature. Dayton said he will appeal to the state Supreme Court.
The Democratic governor said he issued the veto as a way to gain leverage over lawmakers in hopes they would reverse five provisions in bills he already had signed.
Daudt said that since the Legislature won its veto case, there is enough money to raise salaries.