Lawmaker pledges pay raise to charity if governor signs house bill

PIERRE, S.D. (SDBA) - A pay raise for legislators is headed to the governor’s desk, and if signed, at least one lawmaker says he will give his extra wages to charity.

Photo courtesy of the South Dakota Broadcaster's Association

House Bill 1311 calls for an increase in pay for legislators equal to 20 percent of the median household income in South Dakota. That equates to a yearly $10,000 salary for members, up from the $6,000 they receive today.

The South Dakota Broadcasters Association reports Sen. Jordan Youngberg joined 27 of his colleagues in passing the measure on Tuesday and surprised some senators during a floor speech by promising to make a charitable contribution with any money above his current salary next year.

Youngberg, a Republican from Madison, said his vote in favor of the raise is not self-serving. He said a pay increase is needed to increase the pool of candidates interested in serving.

Youngberg said he is not here for the money so he would donate his raise.

"I didn't do this for the money. I'm not in it for the money," he said. "I'm here for the people of South Dakota, but it's very important they we have this going forward in our state. I think it will all allow us to get a more accurate citizen legislator."

Not all of the senators agree to raising legislators’ pay. Six voted against the increase, including Senate Minority Billie Sutton.

The democrat from Burke said he agrees with Youngberg that we should always be looking for ways to attract more people to running for the legislature, but a pay hike is not the way to do it, especially during a tight budget year.

"Going from say a $6,000 pay right now to 10 or 12 isn't gonna drastically change the make-up of the legislature," he said. "There's an argument to be made that it could help, but what I think needs to happen is for businesses and organizations to encourage members or employees to participate in the process. I think that's gonna help a lot more to diversify your legislative branch."

HB 1311 already passed the house and is now headed to the governor for signature or veto.

Supporters believe they have enough votes for an override if Daugaard vetoes the bill.