Records: State lawmakers are well compensated
SANTA FE — New Mexico lawmakers were paid a combined $2.3 million last year for expenses, travel and other costs in what marked a 25 percent increase over the previous comparable legislative session.
New Mexico is the only state in the nation where lawmakers receive no salary for their work, but taxpayers foot the bill for their mileage, meals and travel and other work expenses.
State records obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request show that lawmakers were paid much more in 2015 than they were in 2013, the most comparable year with a 60-day legislative session.
Lawmakers were paid a combined $1.8 million in 2013, meaning last year’s compensation cost taxpayers an additional $500,000.
Legislators on average earned more than $20,000 last year, with Sen. Lee Cotter, R-Las Cruces, receiving more than any other lawmaker at $43,604 last year.
House and Senate members collect a daily expense payment — a “per diem” set at $163 — that covers work during legislative sessions that last 30 and 60 days in alternating years and committee meetings year-round. They also can receive compensation for driving mileage, out-of-state legislative conferences and are eligible for retirement benefits.
Cotter, a real estate investor, served on nine year-round legislative committees during 2015 and said that his expenses and compensation reflect his intense dedication and enthusiasm for the job. He said that costs for traveling between Las Cruces and the capitol in Santa Fe roughly doubled his compensation.
Three other lawmakers received more than $35,000. They were Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa ($36,793); Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Espanola ($36,431); and Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque ($35,662).
Compensation is typically higher in odd-numbered years when the Legislature meets for at least 60 days. In 2013, compensation averaged a little more than $16,000 per lawmaker and $27,463 at the most.
A one-day special legislative session in 2015 added to expenses does not account for the sizeable compensation increase.
New Mexico may be the nation’s only unsalaried legislature, but it is not at the bottom nationally for compensation. Lawmakers in New Hampshire receive an annual salary of $100, but get no per diem when they meet. On the flip side, California legislators earn more than $90,000 a year, plus daily expenses.
New Mexico lawmakers are contemplating whether to add salaries under a proposed constitutional amendment submitted by Rep. Terry McMillan, R-Las Cruces, a surgeon who collected $11,359 in compensation for his legislative work last year.
The plan would tie lawmakers’ salaries to the median household incomes in New Mexico of about $41,000, costing taxpayers an additional $4.6 million a year.
Proponents say salaries would broaden the pool of candidates who can afford to serve.
Approval looks unlikely because legislative salaries are not part of a House budget appropriations bill approved Saturday and were not included in budget recommendations from Republican Gov. Susana Martinez or the Legislature.
Compensation in 2015 for New Mexico lawmakers
Here is a list of the compensation received by New Mexico legislators in 2015, according to records of the Department of Finance and Administration. Lawmakers receive payments for daily expense, driving mileage and travel to out-of-state legislative conferences. Lawmakers are not paid an annual salary.
- Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage, R-Kirtland: $33,784
- Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec: $26,779
- Rep. Rodney Montoya, R-Farmington: $21,412
- Sen. Steven Neville, R-Aztec: $20,658
- Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington: $19,135
- Rep. James Strickler, R-Farmington: $17,478
- Sen. Lee S. Cotter, R-Las Cruces: $43,604
- Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa: $36,793
- Sen. Richard C. Martinez, D-Espanola: $36,431
- Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque: $35,662
- Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming: $34,340
- Sen. William P. Soules, D-Las Cruces: $33,998
- Rep. Eliseo Lee Alcon, D-Milan: $33,829
- Rep. Bealquin Gomez, D-La Mesa: $33,293
- Sen. John Pinto, D-Gallup: $33,231
- Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City: $32,142
- Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan: $30,894
- Rep. Jimmie C. Hall, R-Albuquerque: $29,544
- Sen. Ron Griggs, R-Alamogordo: $28,880
- Rep. John Zimmerman, R-Las Cruces: $28,577
- Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup: $28,558
- Sen. Nancy Rodriguez, D-Santa Fe: $27,691
- Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces: $27,576
- Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Espanola: $27,327
- Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Las Cruces: $27,302
- Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho: $26,306
- Rep. Larry Larranaga, R-Albuquerque: $25,447
- Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell: $25,367
- Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque: $25,040
- Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque: $24,341
- Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, D-Albuquerque: $24,287
- Rep. Rick Little, R-Chaparral: $24,129
- Sen. Benny Shendo, D-Jemez Pueblo: $24,071
- Sen. Carroll Leavell, R-Jal: $23,396
- Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque: $23,222
- Rep. James Smith, R-Sandia Park: $22,752
- Rep. Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales, D-Taos: $22,707
- Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants: $22,482
- Rep. Kelly Farjado, R-Belen: $22,360
- Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview: $22,317
- Rep. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell: $22,312
- Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque: $21,898
- Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert, R-Corrales: $21,876
- Rep. Bob Wooley, R-Roswell: $21,600
- Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas: $21,477
- Rep. David Gallegos, R-Eunice: $21,230
- Sen. George Munoz, D-Gallup: $21,067
- Rep. Don Tripp, R-Socorro: $20,897
- Rep. Randal Crowder, R-Clovis: $20,723
- Rep. Tomas Salazar, D-Las Vegas: $20,591
- Rep. James Townsend, R-Artesia: $20,579
- Rep. James Roger Madalena, D-Jemez Pueblo: $20,333
- Sen. William Burt, R-Alamogordo: $20,237
- Rep. Larry Scott, R-Hobbs: $20,205
- Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque: $19,621
- Rep. Andy Nunez, R-Hatch: $19,619
- Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales: $19,320
- Rep. Patricio Ruiloba, D-Albuquerque: $19,296
- Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs: $19,016
- Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas: $18,574
- Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe: $18,529
- Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces: $18,413
- Rep. Nick Salazar, D-Ohkay Owingeh: $18,166
- Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque: $17,991
- Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque: $17,987
- Sen. William Payne, R-Albuquerque: $17,787
- Sen. Ted Barela, R-Estancia: $17,725
- Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque: $17,474
- Rep. Cathrynn N. Brown, R-Carlsbad: $17,367
- Rep. William Rehm, R-Albuquerque: $17,261
- Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort, R-Albuquerque: $17,114
- Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque: $16,936
- Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela, D-Santa Fe: $16,748
- Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Grants: $16,746
- Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos: $16,674
- Rep. D. Wonda Johnson, D-Church Rock16,660
- Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho: $16,327
- Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe: $16,314
- Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque: $16,301
- Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe: $16,293
- Sen. John Sapien, D-Corrales: $16,074
- Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell: $15,470
- Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces: $15,467
- Rep. David E. Adkins, D-Albuquerque: $15,455
- Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque: $15,427
- Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque: $15,362
- Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque: $15,264
- Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque: $15,218
- Rep. Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso: $14,843
- Rep. G. Andres Romero, D-Albuquerque: $14,737
- Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque: $14,514
- Rep. Conrad James, R-Albuquerque: $14,449
- Rep. Dona Irwin, D-Deming: $14,439
- Sen. Michael Sanchez, D-Belen: $14,393
- Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque: $14,029
- Rep. George Dodge, D-Santa Rosa: $13,976
- Rep. Doreen Gallegos, D-Las Cruces: $13,914
- Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, $13,884
- Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Santa Fe: $13,830
- Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque: $13,540
- Rep. Tim Lewis, R-Rio Rancho: $13,500
- Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo: $13,410
- Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque: $13,298
- Sen. John Ryan, R-Albuquerque: $12,914
- Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque: $12,416
- Rep. Terry McMillan, R-Las Cruces: $11,359
- Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe: $11,218
- Former Rep. Stephanie Maez, D-Albuquerque: $10,764 (Resigned November 2015)
- Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque: $10,666
- Rep. Dianne Hamilton, R-Silver City: $10,242
- Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque: $10,201
- Sen. Lisa Torraco, R-Albuquerque: $10,201
- Former Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose: $8,793 (Resigned March 2015)
- Rep. Idalia Lechuga-Tena, D-Albuquerque: $1,711