Ohio lawmakers are increasing their salaries from $60,584 to $73,167 annually by 2028. Members of leadership—who already receive additional money—will see an even higher increase.
Senate Bill 296 originally went by the short title, "Provide health benefits to survivors of safety officers," and was originally designed to do just that. However, the pay increases for government officials was slipped in before a final vote last week.
Although Republican Gov. John Kasich has criticized the bill, both chambers should have enough votes to override a governor veto of the legislation. The bill passed the House, 68-20, and passed the Senate, 26-5. The bill was sponsored by a Republican, Sen. Jay Hottinger, R-Newark.
Ohio legislators currently have the eighth highest salaries in the country, but they are also one of ten states that have a full-time legislature. This legislation would move Ohio’s salary up to fourth in the country if all other states stay the same.
Pennsylvania, one of Ohio’s neighbors, has a full-time legislature with a higher salary of $87,180 per year. Michigan, its other neighbor with a full-time legislature, pays its elected lawmakers $71,685. Lawmakers from the state’s other three neighbors, Kentucky, West Virginia and Indiana, all have significantly lower salaries, but they are either part-time or hybrid legislatures rather than full-time.
The legislation also increases salaries of other local officials. It includes increases for members of the boards of elections and several township and county officials, including judges, sheriffs, prosecutors and county commissioners.
On top of salary increases, the bill creates an advisory committee to provide recommendations on adjustments of officials’ pay. Members of the committee could not be elected officials, recent candidates or lobbyists.
"Just like businesses increase pay to attract qualified and talented workers, this pay adjustment can have the same positive effect when it comes to attracting qualified individuals to seek public office," a brief put out by Ohio House Republicans read.
Senate Republicans made similar statements supporting the legislation.
"This compensation part of the bill covers county and township local officials, statewide office holders and members of the General Assembly," John Fortney, senior communications advisor for the Ohio Senate Majority Caucus told Watchdog.org. "The last time these office holders received an increase was 10 years ago in 2008."
Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, criticized the bill because of how the pay increases were included.
"It’s disgusting to use families of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty as a vehicle for pay raises," she said, according to Cleveland.com.
Frank LaRose, R-Hudson, who initially was a sponsor of the bill pulled his sponsorship and referred to the pay increases as an "11th hour maneuver" in a tweet.
Yesterday, a House committee added a pay raise for elected officials onto SB296, my bill to extend death benefits for families of fallen first responders. I oppose that 11th hour maneuver, and as a result have directed the Senate to take my name off of the bill.
— Frank LaRose (@FrankLaRose) December 14, 2018
If the bill becomes law, the changes will take effect immediately.