The employees who answer phones, research policy and manage calendars for lawmakers at the statehouse could see their yearly pay nearly double this year.
Under a proposal approved by top lawmakers, wages for legislative aides would increase from $16 to $20 an hour. The aides also would be allowed to work significantly more hours during the eight-month interim periods between sessions.
Taken together, that means that an aide working year-round could make up to $36,000, compared to about $21,000 before.
"It needs to be a job that a single parent can have and to be perfectly honest with you, I don’t think we’re quite there, but this is a huge step towards it,” said Logan Davis, a former aide who has been helping political workers organize over the last year.
Aides have complained that low pay makes it difficult to work in the Capitol without taking on another job — unless you come from a wealthy family.
Some aides will still not make the $36,000 — for example, if they don’t work the maximum hours, or if the lawmaker decides to employ multiple aides who work fewer hours. This year, 116 are aides working for the state's 100 legislators.
The changes were approved with little comment on Tuesday by the leaders of both parties in the statehouse. They still must be finalized as part of the state budget, and the pay increases would take effect in July.
Davis credited Democratic Sen. Steve Fenberg, the new Senate president, for making the change. Previously, Davis said it had appeared that lawmakers might make the change by passing a bill — a lengthier process. But soon after taking power, Fenberg approached the organizers and said it could be done more quickly through the budget process, Davis said.
"Our hardworking legislative aide corps keeps the wheels turning at the Capitol. I was proud to work with them to implement well-deserved increases to wages and hours that will allow them to continue their great work while earning a living wage," Fenberg said in a written statement to CPR News.
The raise and expanded hours will increase spending by $1.9 million. The state's senators and representatives make between $40,000 and $42,000 per year, plus thousands of dollars more for some lawmakers who travel long distances or work on committees during the interim.