We all know that Oklahoma is a relatively poor state. We know that our teachers are among the lowest-paid in the nation. So, does it make sense that our state lawmakers – who are at the Capitol about a third of the number of days that teachers are in the classroom – make more than our teachers and are among the best paid in the nation?
The starting pay for a state legislator is $38,400. But, that's not all, if they live more than 50 miles from the Capitol, they also get reimbursed for mileage and receive $148 a day for lodging, during session. Some members of leadership also receive bonuses ranging from $12,364 to $17,932. On average, legislators are in session for 4 days, 4 months a year.
Some taxpayers tell us, they're not happy about this pay scale.
"I think they're overpaid," said Brett Bryan. "Makes me want to go into the legislature, so I can have a cushy job and easy money."
"It's quite a bit of pay for what they really do," said David Gray. "I think they need to take a look at it and maybe cut it back."
Some legislators support a pay cut but, most who we talked to, defend the pay scale. They point out that they deal with constituent issues in their districts all year long.
Speaker of the House, Kris Steele, gave us this statement, "As established in the Oklahoma Constitution, the Board on Legislative Compensation – not the Legislature – sets legislator income. The base salary has not changed since the 1990s. The session may last four months, but a legislator's work goes well beyond session. Last week, for instance, legislators began the process of conducting interim studies in preparation for next session. Legislators are also busy in their districts developing policies, meeting with constituents and learning about local needs. In the House, we take seriously our roles as stewards of public dollars and believe in leading by example. In recent years, we have implemented a moratorium on out-of-state travel and significantly reduced our operating budget. This has been just a small part of our larger efforts to make government more efficient and effective."
The Oklahoma Impact Team compares their pay to that of legislators in neighboring states and go to the people who set their pay for answers. Watch the report on News 9 tonight at 10 p.m.