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Brian Bakst, Associated Press, Published April 09 2013

Plan to boost lawmaker pay in Minn. budget bill

ST. PAUL — Minnesota lawmakers would get their first pay boosts since the late 1990s under a budget proposal rolled out Tuesday in the Senate that also includes salary increases for the governor and top agency leaders.

The governor's $120,303-a-year base pay would go up 3 percent in 2015 and again in 2016. The wage would then be tied to annual inflation.

Legislators would see an even bigger bump because their pay would be set at one-third of what the governor makes. That would take their $31,140-a-year salaries to $40,890 in 2015.

The rates largely mirror recommendations from an independent panel known as the Compensation Council. Past council proposals have fallen flat because lawmakers are squeamish about the appearance of helping themselves financially even as many grumble about the amount they make.

No pay hikes would occur until 2015 because the state constitution requires an election between approval and enactment.

The pay plan is not in a companion House bill, but passage by the Senate would keep raises alive as the final budget is set in May. The pay raise proposal is a more delicate proposition in the House, where members are on the ballot in 2014. Senators won't face voters again until 2016.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has said he supports increasing lawmaker salaries and those of commissioners as a way to keep high-caliber managers from bolting to the private sector. Under the plan, some of the commissioners who report to the governor would be eligible to more than their boss. Going forward, the state would conduct a comprehensive study to determine competitive pay rates for top appointed posts.

Salaries for the attorney general, secretary of state and auditor would also rise.

A separate budget bill includes raises for state judges, which was another part of the Compensation Council's recommendation.

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