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Raise possible for SD legislators

PIERRE -- South Dakota legislators would receive $10,000 annually for their service under a plan that cleared its first test Monday.

The annual pay has been $6,000 since 1999. The increase could help more people be able to afford to serve in the Legislature, according to Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City.

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"By limiting the pay of legislators we are limiting our competition," Tieszen said.

The Senate State Affairs Committee voted 7-2 to endorse passage of Tieszen's plan, SB 142. Now it heads to the full Senate for action.

The legislation has a quirk. New legislators would see the additional $4,000 in 2015. But any of this year's legislators would have to wait until 2017.

Tieszen said that's an attempt to defuse some of the argument that a raise is self-serving.

The staggered approach seems "awkward," Sen. Ried Holien, R-Watertown, said, but he still voted in favor.

Voting no were Republican senators Larry Rhoden, of Union Center, and Corey Brown, of Gettysburg. Rhoden called the two-step approach "a messy situation" with new legislators making more than their more-senior counterparts.

Sen. Ryan Maher estimated that he spends $15,000 a year on legislative duties. "This job is probably one of the most expensive hobbies I've ever had," said Maher, R-Isabel.

Keeping the salary at $6,000 will prevent some people from being candidates, said Sen. Dan Lederman, R-Dakota Dunes.

"It's good to keep a citizen legislature alive," Lederman said.