Big salaries=big shortfalls

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By Jay Miller

SANTA FE — Are New Mexicans getting their money’s worth out of our 112 state legislators? A recent report indicates we may be getting a very good deal indeed.

The Illinois Policy Institute looked into the range of salaries paid to state legislators across the country and found that the states that pay their lawmakers the most also have the highest budget shortfalls.

The average budget shortfall for the states with the top 10 salaries is over 30 percent. The average for the bottom 10 states is under 19 percent.

Data used for this study is for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2010. I reported to you recently on data ending June 30, 2009. California ended its 2009 fiscal year with a 49 percent budget gap. This year, it was 65 percent. New Mexico’s figures were a 6.3 percent gap last year and 22 percent this year.

California pays the highest legislative salaries in the nation at $95,291. Other states in the top 10 are Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, Alaska, Wisconsin and New Jersey, which pays a salary of $49,000.

The bottom 10 in legislative compensation are New Mexico, Utah and Texas with no salary. They are followed by Mississippi, South Carolina, Nebraska, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Arkansas and Louisiana, with a salary of $16,800.

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