Legislators: Salary Overview
Legislators are usually elected politicians who introduce or enact laws and statutes at the local, tribal, state, or federal levels.
They may work at all levels of government: towns, cities, counties, and states.
Legislators who serve the federal government form the U.S. Congress, which includes the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
Regardless of the level of government at which they serve, legislators have similar jobs: they enact laws and oversee the executive branch.
Legislators research the proposed bills and try to convince other legislators to support or oppose those bills.
Another part of their job is meeting with individuals, businesses, and lobbyists who try to persuade them to vote for or against a bill.
In most U.S. states the legislature consists of two separate legislative houses or chambers.
Nebraska is the only state that doesn’t have a bicameral legislature.
The smaller chamber is called the Senate and its members typically serve for longer terms than the members of the House of Representatives, which is the name of the larger chamber in 41 states.
Five states call the larger chamber the Assembly and three states designate it the House of Delegates.
Senate legislators usually serve for four-year terms while members of the larger chamber usually serve for two years terms.
A state legislator’s responsibilities vary depending on the chamber in which they serve.
Members of the Senate usually have the exclusive power to try articles of impeachment and to confirm appointments made by the state’s governor.
Members of the larger chamber usually initiate taxing legislation and articles of impeachment.
New state legislature typically convenes in January of the odd-numbered year in most states.
A session may last several months in states where the legislature is considered part-time and all year in states where the legislature is considered full-time.
Legislators may have to work long hours and they have to attend many hearings, meetings, and other events that are usually scheduled outside normal business hours.
They may also have to travel between the district in which they serve and the state capital, or Washington DC.
This position is affected by uncertainty because like all other politicians, legislators have to be reelected in order to continue in their position.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for legislators was $24,670 as of May 2018 while the average salary was $47,620 per year.
Salaries can vary widely and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $17,510 per year while the highest 10 percent earned more than $98,890 per year.
The 25th percentile for this profession was $18,840, which means that 75% of legislators earned more than this amount.
The 75th percentile was $72,800 which means that only 25% of legislators earned more than this.
Legislator Salary by Level of Government
Currently, there are 7,383 state legislators in the United States who are assisted by staff aids.
State legislators prepare and analyze legislation, review and amend budgets, and participate in solving constituents’ grievances with the government.
According to the numbers published by BLS, most legislators (46,690) worked for local governments, a field that paid them, on average, with $47,280 per year.
State governments paid legislators, on average, with $51,990.
Some legislators also receive a per diem, which is a payment made for each day they serve.
Legislator salaries also vary depending on the state in which they serve.
For example, according to ballotpedia.org, California legislators earn $110,459 per year while New Hampshire legislators earn only $200 per two-year term.
New Mexico is the only state that does not pay its legislators a salary.
Because in many cases the compensations received by legislators in not enough to make a living, many legislators need an additional source of income.
At the state and local levels many legislators serve part-time in their elected position and work full time in an unrelated job.
* Based on information from the May 2021 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Legislators. BLS data represents averages and medians for workers at all levels of education and experience. This data doesn't represent starting salaries.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.