AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage is proposing to more than double the salary of future Maine governors and significantly reduce the size of the Legislature in a package of two bills made public Tuesday.
The salary proposal would increase the pay of future governors from $70,000 to $150,000 a year. It also would increase legislators’ salaries by 25 percent if the Legislature agrees to reduce its membership in a separate bill, from 35 to 25 seats in the Senate and from 151 to 100 or fewer seats in the House of Representatives. Reducing the size of the Legislature would require amending the Maine Constitution and approval by voters.
Currently, Maine has the lowest paid governor in the nation, a fact LePage frequently repeats during his weekly town hall forums across the state. His bill would make the governor’s salary comparable with those of governors in Hawaii, Wisconsin and Vermont beginning in 2019, the year after he completes his second and final term.
Increasing gubernatorial compensation would be contingent upon lawmakers agreeing to reduce their own ranks – something they have not done despite multiple proposals introduced over the past several years.
Lawmakers serve two-year terms and currently receive a stipend of $14,074 a year for the first regular session and $9,982 a year for the shorter, second regular session. They also receive $38 a day for lodging, mileage and tolls, and $32 a day for meals. The first regular session is scheduled to run from late December until late June, while the second regular session goes from mid-January to late April.
Democratic House leader Rep. Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan said both the governor’s proposals were worth discussing, but introduced too late in the session to receive a thorough vetting.
“It’s always good to debate the size of the Legislature and we already know that the governor’s salary isn’t competitive with other states,” he said. “My only complaint is how late these were introduced. And we’re hearing that these are just two of the 10 bills that the governor plans to drop on us late in the session.”
Republican House leader Rep. Kenneth Fredette said through a spokesman that he didn’t support the governor’s proposals because both were introduced late in the session.
Lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn April 20, although they could extend the session.
At 186 members, the Maine Legislature is one of the largest in the country, larger than Texas (181 members), Michigan (148 members) and California (120 members), but comparable to some states where relatively smaller populations are spread out. Montana, for example, has 150 members.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 34 states have adjusted the size of their Legislatures since 1960, but only five have since 1990.
Advocates for reducing the size of legislatures argue that it increases efficiency and lowers costs. Proponents of larger legislatures counter that more representation means the public has greater access to their local representatives.
The governor’s proposals will receive a public hearing later in this legislative session.