16% raise recommended for Maryland legislators who would make $50,000 in 2018

December 16, 2013 at 10:30 pm

By Len Lazarick

Len@MarylandReporter.com

Former Delegate Barbara Kreamer, far right, testifies to the  General Assembly Compensation Commission Monday.

Former Delegate Barbara Kreamer testifies to the General Assembly Compensation Commission Monday. From right, they are Kreamer; Raymond Nix; chairman Sean Glynn; Mary Larkin; Steuart Chaney; and Ackneil M. Muldrow III. All but Chaney are appointed by the governor.

Maryland legislators elected next year would see their salaries rise to $50,330 in 2018, a 16% raise over the next four years recommended Monday by the General Assembly Compensation Commission.

If the legislature accepts the recommendation, it would give the part-time lawmakers their first raise in eight years. Delegates and senators currently make $43,500.

The two presiding officers would also get a 16% pay hike over four years to $65,371 in 2018. The Senate president and House of Delegates speaker currently make $56,500.

The nine-member commission also proposed some of the same adjustments to legislative pensions that the General Assembly imposed on state employees and teachers in 2011. The commission suggested raising legislators’ contribution rate from 5% to 7% of their salaries, raising the retirement age from 60 to 62, and raising the early retirement age from 50 to 55.

Consensus on pay hike

“There was general consensus all the way through from the first meeting [that some increase was justified],” said attorney Sean Glynn, appointed by Gov. Martin O’Malley to chair the commission, as he did four years ago.

House of Delegates 2010

House of Delegates (file photo)

In 2010, the commission proposed small increases in General Assembly pay, but only if unemployment fell below 5%. The legislature rejected those increases, and even if they had been approved, they would not have taken effect since the unemployment rate has remained over 6%.

“There was a big sense of fiscal responsibility all along,” said Glynn.

The recommendation for the pay hike passed by a 7-2 vote. Anne Arundel County Marina owner Steuart Chaney was one of the dissenters, favoring a smaller increase.

Chaney, who was appointed by Senate President Mike Miller, said he spoke to legislators and “the legislators thought the compensation was reasonable” at the current level.

But with adjustments to the pensions, Chaney thought some increase was justified.

Part-time legislators, but 42 have no other job

The Senate floor as the final debate on gay marriage begins.

The Senate floor (file photo)

The Maryland legislature is part-time, meeting for 90 days from January to April, with committee meetings and local constituent work throughout the year. About one of out of five Maryland legislators (42 members or 21%) have no other employment, according to a membership profile done by the Department of Legislative Services.

(That is a higher number than reported to the commission in an extensive briefing paper from staff, based on comparative data from National Conference of State Legislatures.)

“From a fairness point of view we should give them what state employees got” over the past seven years, said Gene Ransom III, a former Queen Anne’s County commissioner who is CEO of MedChi, the state medical society.

Legislative staff provided the commission a range of options for salary increases, based on different methods for calculating state pay and the potential for cost of living increases.

Legislative pensions still more generous

While bringing some of the provisions of legislative pensions in line with those for regular state employees and teachers, the commission left intact the more generous pensions for members of the General Assembly.

The senators and delegates earn pensions worth 3% of the salary of current members for every year of service, capped at two-thirds of salary after 22 years and three months of service. They are entitled to some retirement benefits after eight years (two terms) in office.

Employees earn pensions worth 1.5% per year, but with no cap. Employees hired before 2012 are vested after five years of service; newer employees are vested after 10 years.

But unlike state employees, who receive pensions based on their lifetime earnings and any cost of living adjustments, legislative pensions go up based on the current salaries of legislators. This means that retired legislators would also see their retirement pay go up 16% from 2015 to 2018.

There are currently 174 retired legislators with an average age of 74 who get an average pension of $17,376 per year. There are 57 people receiving survivor benefits as spouses or dependent children averaging $9,200 a year.

The average salary for current state employees is $47,030 and about 41,000 retired state workers receive an average pension of $12,000 a year.

According to the briefing documents on pensions, 28 members of the current legislature with an average age of 69 are already entitled to the maximum pension of $29,145 a year. That will go up to $37,000 in 2018. Of the 188 members of the House and Senate, 115 currently have at least eight years of service, and are vested in pensions.

Reject plea from former delegate for more years of credit

The commission rejected a plea by former Del. Barbara Kreamer of Harford County to change the legislative pension system so she could receive credit for her service on the County Council and as a teacher. She did not serve in either job long enough to be vested in the state pension system.

“That was unfair,” Kreamer told the commission.

The commission did request the legislative staff consider changes in legislative pensions that would allow credit for military service and other state employment.

Kreamer served in the legislature from 1983 to 1990. The salary at that time was $21,000 in the first term and rose to $25,000 by the end of her second term. Based on eight years of service, the former delegate would currently be entitled to 24% of the current salary or $10,440 a year.

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  • dwb1

    why on earth would you give legislators a raise, when 150 MM of taxpayer money was wasted on a website that does not work, and when baltimore homicides are up for the 4th year in a row?

  • abby_adams

    Not bad for PART TIME work now! Public service pays well. Will these august legislators offer any relief to overburdened MD taxpayers this year? I wouldn’t hold my breathe. Term limits are the answer. We need new blood in Annapolis if this state is ever to thrive again which we will need thanks to an almost total dependence on Washington largess & the O’Malley bond debit burden. The solution offered to anyone who doubts the direction our state is rapidly moving towards, is “suck it up” or “move”.

  • Adam Meister

    Compare that to what the criminals in other states make: http://www.empirecenter.org/html/legislative_salaries.cfm I say MD goes the NH route: “The annual pay for legislators is set by law at $100.00, plus a per diem for each day they attend.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Hampshire_General_Court

  • joe

    Sounds like the current Democratic liberal big spender occupying the White House!
    “Less than two days after Gov. Martin O’Malley declared that the state’s online insurance marketplace finally worked for most consumers, a server crashed Monday, the call center became overwhelmed and the governor announced he was bringing in another contractor to improve the website.”

  • William Norvell

    You want to give yourselves a 16% pay raise but you won’t give the state workers and retired workers any pay raise or COLA. WTF are you thinking. I see a lot of people getting fired

  • Guest

    Why not? Seems like we are rewarding for failure these days, Balt. City is going to pay the speed/red light folks 600K for nothing. The mayor of Annapolis just got a 112K job running the State’s real estate but couldn’t manage to get the Annapolis market functional.

  • robert gould

    They don’t deserve a dime

  • USMC Chappy

    Here we go again, a RAISE? Why? People can not get work and these people want to get a raise, brother let’s get a life. Anybody down there have any Common Sense.