Oklahoma legislative leaders to get pay increases. Most lawmakers will not.

All legislators receive a $47,500 base annual salary

By: - October 17, 2023 12:53 pm

A compensation oversight board voted unanimously to increase legislative leaders' pay, but decided to leave the salaries alone for most lawmakers. (Photo by Kyle Phillips/For Oklahoma Voice)

OKLAHOMA CITY — Legislative leaders will receive a pay increase next year, but most legislators will not, a state compensation board decided Tuesday.

The Legislative Compensation Board voted unanimously to increase by 5% the stipends legislative leaders receive on top of their annual salaries.

House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, won’t benefit from the $897 increase because it won’t take effect until after the legislative leaders leave office next year due to term limits.

Stipends for the House speaker and Senate president pro tempore will increase to $18,829. Stipends for other legislative leaders — including minority leaders, floor leaders and appropriations committee chairs in both chambers — will increase by $618 to $12,982.

Legislative leaders receive the stipends each year on top of the $47,500 annual salary all state lawmakers receive.

The Legislative Compensation Board, which is made up of non-elected officials appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, declined to increase salaries for all lawmakers after repeatedly deadlocking on multiple votes.

Pointing to the roughly $70,200 most rank-and-file lawmakers earn each year when factoring in $174-per-day travel and accommodation payments during session, state retirement contributions and other benefits, board member Bob Kane said he feels current legislative compensation is adequate.

Oklahoma has a part-time Legislature that is typically only in session from February through May of each year.

“I think the compensation compares very favorably with the other states in our region,” Kane said. “It’s generous compared to the income of the people of Oklahoma. I think we can be proud of providing adequate compensation for our legislators.”

The median household income in Oklahoma is $56,956, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The board that meets every two years last hiked lawmakers’ salaries in 2019. At the time, the board approved 35% pay raises for all lawmakers that were intended to reverse a seemingly punitive cut from 2017 in addition to boosting salaries to a new high.

The board also increased legislative leadership stipends in 2019.

Board member Chip Carter, whom Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed to the panel last week, pushed for a 10% pay increase for all legislators and a 25% increase in stipends for legislative leaders, but he couldn’t secure support from a majority of board members.

Serving as a legislator is a “tremendously difficult, challenging job,” he said. Lawmakers and especially legislative leaders put in additional work throughout the year, regardless of whether the Legislature is in session, he said.

Carter said it would be a mistake for the compensation board to meet and not even increase legislators’ pay in light of high inflation.

The stipend increases will take effect Nov. 20, 2024, shortly after next year’s legislative elections and new lawmakers are sworn into office.

The board’s inaction on legislative pay is in stark contrast to the Oklahoma Board on Judicial Compensation voting earlier this year to recommend a 17% pay hike for judges. During next year’s legislative session, lawmakers can adopt, modify or reject that recommendation.

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Carmen Forman
Carmen Forman

Carmen covers state government, politics and health care from Oklahoma City. A Norman native, she previously worked in Arizona and Virginia before she began reporting on the Oklahoma Capitol.