Coming soon to a political ad near you? Lawmakers approve pay hike for themselves

The House meets on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Tennessee lawmakers have approved a bill to give each of them an extra $3,000 per year. Officially, the money is meant to cover members’ home office expenses. But in practice, there’s no requirement for legislators to document how they spend the money.

The measure was given final approval in the House on Thursday on a 70-12 vote.

“We just cut Tennesseans’ unemployment and now we’re essentially going to give ourselves a pay raise,” said Rep. Jason Hodges (D-Clarksville), who voted against the bill. “Guys, I just don’t think that looks good.”

The measure, which takes effect after the 2022 elections, also ties future increases to the Consumer Price Index, which generally increases about 2% per year. The bill also allows lawmakers to be reimbursed for unlimited round trips to the Capitol and to opt for a higher daily lodging allowance than supplied under the federal government rate of $234 per night.

Legislators are often hesitant about voting to increase their compensation because it makes for easy fodder for challengers’ campaign ads.  

Voting for the bill were Reps. Alexander, Baum, Boyd, Bricken, Calfee, Campbell, Camper, Carr, Carringer, Casada, Cepicky, Cochran, Crawford, Curcio, Darby, Doggett, Eldridge, Faison, Farmer, Gant, Gillespie, Grills, Halford, Hall, Haston, Hawk, Hazlewood, Helton, Hicks G, Holsclaw, Howell, Hurt, Curtis Johnson, Keisling, Lafferty, Lamberth, Leatherwood, Littleton, Love, Lynn, Mannis, Marsh, McKenzie, Miller, Moody, Moon, Ogles, Parkinson, Potts, Powers, Ragan, Ramsey, Reedy, Rudd, Rudder, Cameron Sexton, Jerry Sexton, Shaw, Sherrell, Smith, Terry, Todd, Vaughan, Warner, Weaver, White, Whitson, Williams, Wright and Zachary.

Voting against were Reps. Clemmons, Dixie, Freeman, Hakeem, Hardaway, Harris, Hodges, Gloria Johnson, Mitchell, Powell, Thompson, and Windle.

The Senate version passed 28-2, with the votes against coming from Sens. Campbell and Crowe.


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