How much should a Florida legislator earn?
Friday, March 24, 2023
State Rep. Bruce Antone, of Ocoee, hopes his salary survey bill will lead to pay increases — and open the doors for greater diversity in the legislature. Photo: 401kcalculator.org
“We need diversity of representation in the legislature — the average person can’t afford to serve because it doesn’t pay that well.”
That’s state Rep. Bruce Antone, a Democrat from Ocoee, making the case for a salary survey of legislators and cabinet members that his bill HB 1183, currently in the State Affairs Committee, would mandate. If passed, the survey would include recommendations for appropriate salary increases and would be presented to the governor, House speaker and Senate president for consideration.
Antone told VoxPopuli earlier this week that his bill doesn’t guarantee salary increases for legislators. (Legislators have to pass a salary increase with the governor having the final say.) Rather, his bill is meant to highlight the need to raise the pay rate in a state that’s been slow to do so as the cost of living rises. He believes it has a 50-50 chance of passing — odds that got a bit better last week when fellow Democrat, state Sen. Tracie Davis of Jacksonville, filed a companion bill in the Senate.
Antone said that in his nearly 30 years of working for the state, he hasn’t had a raise.
“When I first started working in the Legislature in 1992, the salary for a state representative and a state senator was $22,300. Here we are 30 years later and we’re now at $29,700. Then by the time you take out taxes, withholdings and insurances, it's about $1,800 to $1,700 a month. My daughter pays $2,000 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. The average person can’t afford to do this.”
Florida representatives are allotted an additional $9,120 per legislative session through per diem rates ($152/day for 60 days) for a total compensation of $38,820. Senators are allotted an additional $7,600 during the session through per diem allowances ($152 for 50 days) for a total compensation of $37,300, according to the 2022 survey of legislator compensation conducted by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). The Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate earn an extra $11,484.
While the position of a Florida lawmaker is considered part time, Antone said working as a state legislator is so time consuming that he considers himself full time. He pointed to New York and California where local representatives work full time and earn higher salaries. New York’s base salary for state legislators is $110,000 per year while California’s is $119,702, according to NCSL's survey.
NCSL classifies state legislatures as either part-time, full-time or hybrid. To be considered full time, 84 percent of legislators’ time must be spent on state duties. States like Florida and Iowa are in the hybrid category because lawmakers spend about three-quarters of their time on legislative duties.
In Iowa, a legislator's salary is $25,000, and they are allotted an additional $18,920 per legislative session through per diem rates ($172/day for 110 days) for a total compensation of $43,920. Hotels are also covered for representatives during the session.
Maryland is also considered a hybrid state but offers a $50,330 salary for their state representatives along with a $750 travel allowance for the whole year. The representatives are also paid through per diem rates ($162/day for 90 days) for a total compensation of $65,660. Meanwhile, Rhode Island is a part-time state, meaning representatives spend an average of 57 percent of their time on legislative duties, and they earn $16,636 annually, with no per diem.
Some state lawmakers earn even less. For example, New Hampshire lawmakers receive a $100 yearly stipend — a figure that hasn’t changed since 1889 — plus a mileage reimbursement. (Incidentally, two state lawmakers are seeking to amend the New Hampshire constitution to raise that salary to $2,500 per year.)
“If Florida wants a diverse legislature, if they want to have teachers, if they want to have people other than business owners and attorneys or people that are wealthy and have family trusts, it is in the interests of the citizens of Florida to increase the salaries,” Antone said.
“I don’t know if that amount will be, it might be $75,000. It might be $90,000. I’m not saying it needs to be six figures, but it needs to be a lot more than it is right now.”