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Lawmakers to see pay cut

OKLAHOMA CITY  Oklahoma's 149 state representatives and senators are getting a pay cut.

The Legislative Compensation Board, a nine-member appointed panel, voted 4-3 on Thursday to reduce the base pay of Oklahoma legislators by 8.8 percent, effective in November 2018. The pay cut would reduce a legislator's base salary from $38,400 to $35,021. The additional pay for House and Senate leaders also will be reduced.

"Oklahomans right now today are frustrated with Oklahoma's Legislature," said Chairman Wes Milbourn, the president and general manager of two Oklahoma City television stations who was appointed to the board by Gov. Mary Fallin. 

Milbourn was one of several members who suggested the panel consider reducing legislative pay and who voted in favor of the cut.

Another one of Fallin's appointees who favored the reduction, Mike O'Neal of Edmond, said he considered that legislators earn significantly more than the average Oklahoman considering the Legislature is only in session from February to May.

"How does what we're compensating them compare to the typical Oklahoman and Oklahoma family?" O'Neal asked.

Besides the $38,400 base salary, Oklahoma lawmakers receive travel and meal reimbursement and health and retirement benefits that bring their total average compensation to about $62,000, according to information compiled by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. The median household income for an Oklahoma family is about $49,000, OMES reported.

It's not a novel idea. A voter-approved constitutional amendment in Massachusetts allows the base pay for rank-and-file legislators to be adjusted every two years to reflect changes in the median household income for state residents.

Some Oklahoma legislators said the reduction in pay won't affect them personally, but could make it more difficult, especially for younger and working-class men and women to run for office.

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