Arizona State Legislators' Salaries, Proposition 304 (2014)

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Proposition 304
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Type:Commission-referred ballot measure
Referred by:Arizona Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers
Topic:Gov't Salaries
Status:Defeated Defeatedd
2014 measures
November 4
Proposition 122Approveda
Proposition 303 Approveda
Proposition 304 Defeatedd
Local measures
The Arizona State Legislators' Salaries, Proposition 304 was on the November 4, 2014 ballot in Arizona as a commission-referred ballot measure, where it was overwhelmingly defeated. The measure, had it been approved, would have increased the salaries of state legislators to $35,000 annually. This would have been an $11,000 per year increase over then-current salaries. The salary increase was recommended and referred to the ballot by the Arizona Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers.[1][2]

Election results

Below are the official, certified election results:

Arizona Proposition 304
Defeatedd No966,60567.89%
Yes 457,216 32.11%

Election results via: Arizona Secretary of State

Text of measure

Ballot title

The short title assigned to Proposition 304 was:[1]

State Legislator's Salaries


Ballot summary

The full ballot summary was as follows:[4]




CURRENT SALARY........$24,000

PROPOSED SALARY.......$35,000

A "yes" vote shall have the effect of raising State Legislators' salaries to $35,000 per year. YES__

A "no" vote shall have the effect of keeping State Legislators' salaries at $24,000 per year. NO__ [3]


AZ legislative salaries

Prior to 1981, state legislators received $6,000 annually for their service. This amount was increased to $15,000 in 1981 and to $24,000 in 1999. Legislators receive an additional $35 per day for each day the legislature is in session. This includes weekends for a total of up to 120 days. Lawmakers from outside of Maricopa County receive $60 per day. The per diem allowance is reduced to $10 for in-county legislators and $20 for others after the 120 day limit. The commission based the increase amount on numbers prepared by the Department of Administration. The amount calculated the inflation since legislators last received a pay raise in 1998. If legislative salaries had risen to match inflation, they would now be $34,700. Commissioner Dennis Mitchem rounded that number up to $35,000 for the recommendation.[2]

Arizona has a mixed history when it comes to direct democracy votes on the salaries of legislators. In 1920, voters rejected an initiated constitutional amendment which would have increased the salaries of teachers and public officials. In 1932, an initiated constitutional amendment was approved which reduced the number of state legislators and reduced their salary from $15 to $8 per day. A legislatively-referred constitutional amendment tried to restore the $15 per day pay in 1946, but it was defeated. Another increase was attempted and failed in 1956. In 1958, a raise for state legislators finally succeeded. A legislatively-referred constitutional amendment that year increased their salaries to $1,800 for regular sessions and $20 per day for up to 20 days of special sessions. The total annual salaries were capped at a maximum of $3,600.

The commission which referred Proposition 304 was created by a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment in 1970. Since its creation, the commission has put forward four referred ballot measures to increase legislative salaries. The three prior to this 2014 measure, Proposition 300 in 1986, Proposition 301 in 1992 and Proposition 302 in 1994, were all defeated.

Fiesta Bowl scandal

ABC 15 Arizona, "No charges in Fiesta Bowl scandal," December 21, 2011

Many of the arguments on both sides of Proposition 304 made reference to the Fiesta Bowl scandal which first came to light in 2009. The scandal involved Fiesta Bowl owners skirting campaign reporting laws by reimbursing donations made by their employees to political candidates who supported the bowl. From 2000 until the issue came to light, 14 Fiesta Bowl employees had given more than $38,000 in campaign contributions. At least four employee sources came forward to The Arizona Republic alleging that they had personally received reimbursements in the form of bonuses for political contributions.[5]

In addition to this, it was revealed that politicians had been receiving free trips to college football games across the country in addition to tickets to the Fiesta Bowl itself. State and national elected officials were found to have received donations that may have been reimbursed, later, by Fiesta Bowl. These gifts, however, did not appear to technically break any laws. While Arizona law bans most gifts to legislators, it allowed for gifts of admission to special events if they are offered to a broad category of legislators. State records revealed that lobbyists for Fiesta Bowl spent $78,000 on such special events with lawmakers from 2002 up until January 2011.[6]

While no elected officials were indicted over the matter, the scandal continued to be a point of discussion into 2014. In January 2014, during discussions of a bill that would have banned legislators from accepting tickets to sports or entertainment events, Sen. Don Shooter (R-13) provided the following quote regarding legislative gifts and pay that continues to be repeated throughout Arizona media:

Give us a raise, we’ll buy our own tickets.[3]

Sen. Don Shooter (R-13)[7]

National averages

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of 2008, Arizona's legislators spend more than two-thirds of a full time job being legislators. Most states whose legislators fall into this category do not make enough income not to need other employment. At least 23 other states have similar legislative work loads and compensation. On average, those states' legislators spend the equivalent of 70 percent of a full-time job on legislative work and receive compensations averaging $43,429.[8]




The following members of the Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers voted in favor of the pay increase:[2]

  • Commissioner Lisa Atkins
  • Commissioner Dennis Mitchem
  • Commissioner Joe Kanefield

The following officials supported the measure:


  • Toni Denis, columnist for The Daily Courier
  • E. J. Montini, columnist for


The commissioners in favor of the pay raise argued that the amount was a reasonable increase based on inflation. Commissioner Mitchem said, "Legislators shouldn’t have to take a cut every year in the take-home value of what they’re being paid." Commissioner Kanefield argued in favor of the amount, saying,

No one is getting rich serving as a legislator here in Arizona. The people that do serve make great sacrifice, both personally, professionally and financially to serve here. So what they are paid at $24,000 a year just barely covers some of the incidental costs that they have to incur.[3]

—Commissioner Joe Kanefield[2]

Toni Denis, a columnist for The Daily Courier, wrote in favor of Proposition 304, saying,

Instead of leaving legislators tempted to supplement their meager incomes, I propose it would be better to pay them upfront. [...] That way we might get a better government, one that isn't bought and paid for in campaigns by business interests and lobbyists, one that actually has the welfare of its constituents and the future of the state in mind. Maybe it would even attract attorneys who would dedicate themselves to the important issues in the state as paid representatives.[3]

—Toni Denis[10]

A columnist for, E. J. Montini, supported the pay increase by arguing that the low pay of the state legislator directly contributed to poor legislative work. He stated,

How much is a legislative position worth? Considering the impact those jobs have on our lives, I'd say a lot. And they're not easy, which is part of the reason the people we elect do them so poorly. It's true that government service is supposed to be about service, but the reality of the working world is that without a real, livable wage we will never get the kind of quality people we need.[3]

—E. J. Montini[11]

Several members of the Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers - Chairwoman Lisa Atkins and Members Joseph Kanefield and Dennis Mitchem - released a statement supporting Proposition 304, saying,

As members of the Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers, we support a pay increase for the Arizona Legislature from $24,000 to $35,000 per year and urge you to do the same.

The Legislature is tasked with making our laws and managing a multi-billion dollar budget for all essential state services, including education, public safety, health care, and transportation. It is critical that the best people serve. The men and women elected to the Legislature make personal, professional and financial sacrifices to serve the public good. We believe an annual salary of $35,000 will enable the best citizens to serve while respecting sound fiscal policy. Serving in the Legislature is time consuming. The annual session begins in January and can go as late as June. In addition, the Legislature is often called into special session. When the Legislature is not in session, the legislators must serve the needs of their constituents. The voters last approved a pay increase for the Legislature in 1998. The $24,000 salary set at that time equals almost $35,000 today when adjusted for inflation. Moreover, the proposed salary is consistent with compensation paid to other similar state legislatures. No one is going to get rich serving in the Arizona Legislature. Our hard-working legislators deserve to be appropriately compensated for the sacrifices they make to serve their constituents and the State of Arizona. It is reasonable to cover the basic expenses of those who do serve so that service is open to all qualified citizens. Please join us in voting yes on Proposition 304[3]

—Lisa Atkins, Joseph Kanefield and Dennis Mitchem[12]

Two members of the Arizona Judges Association - Hon. Maria Elena Cruz, president, and Peter G. Dunn, counsel - released a statement in support of Proposition 304, saying,

The Arizona Judges Association respectfully urges a " YES " vote for a pay raise for legislators. They have not had their salaries increased since 1999.

A pay increase will expand the number of citizens who can afford to serve in this important job. The 90 members of the Arizona Legislature have heavy responsibilities including, but not limited to, overseeing a state budget exceeding $9 billion. They and their families deserve this increase.[3]

—Hon. Maria Elena Cruz and Peter G. Dunn[12]

According to the League of Women Voters of Arizona, arguments in support of Proposition 304 included:

1. Qualified candidates can be expected to run for public office only if the salary is commensurate with the duties for the particular office.
2. Some states pay salaries and per-diem and others have a daily allowance only.
3. Voters need to decide if current salary is enough to accomplish good government.[3]

—League of Women Voters of Arizona[13]




The following members of the Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers voted against the pay increase:[2]

  • Commissioner Karen S. Johnson
  • Commissioner Brian Kaufman



The commissioners voting against the increase argued that the state's economic situation did not support a raise for legislators at that time. Commissioner Kaufman also voted against the increase, saying that he would have supported a smaller increase that took into account that the legislators are only supposed to be part-time.[2] Commissioner Johnson opposed the measure as well, saying,

For the voters to go to the ballot to raise the salary of the legislators, I don’t think this is a good time. I have not seen our economy bounce back, at least not up here.[3]

—Commissioner Karen S. Johnson[2]

Laurie Roberts, a columnist for, argued against the measure due to its inclusion of per diem reimbursements. She stated,

Per diem scam aside, I could be talked into supporting a pay raise if I thought it would buy us a better Legislature. But alas, I fear it'll just bring us the same old suspects in nicer suits.[3]

—Laurie Roberts[14]

Toby Farmer, a Republican candidate for Arizona Senate District 13, urged "no" votes on Proposition 304. He argued that the state had financial priorities that should come before legislative pay, such as a "$300-plus [sic] structural deficit" and "a court judgment requiring the state to pay back an additional $316M" to schools. He said,

[...] I don’t believe in special interest perks and gifts from lobbyists. I’m not running for office because I’m focused on my next stepping stone in life. Being a state legislator should not be the best job you’ve ever had. If you don’t have a mentality of service as a state legislator you don’t deserve to be elected.[3]

Toby Farmer[15]

Former Senator Karen S. Johnson released a statement opposing Proposition 304, saying,

I serve on the “Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers” which recommended this pay increase for legislators, and I oppose their recommendation. At $24,000 per year, Arizona is in the mid-range of salaries of the 50 states. New Mexico pays its legislators nothing. New Hampshire pays $200 for a two-year term. At least 17 states pay their legislators less than $20,000 per year. A high salary doesn’t guarantee excellent government. Illinois, New York, and California, which are among the top five states in legislative salaries, pay their legislators $67,836, $79,500, and $90,526 per year respectively. Those states are poorly run and drowning in debt. As the salary grows, legislatures stay in session longer, write more bills, and pass more laws.

There are good reasons for modest legislative salaries. First, most legislatures are part-time, so no one should expect a full-time paycheck. Second, offering modest pay helps screen the field of candidates. A small, part-time salary means that those who run for office are more likely to be older, well advanced in a career, or perhaps retired. They have been in the working world for many years, run a business, bought a home, raised a family. They will likely be more mature and more seasoned. They will be wiser and less vulnerable to the flattery and the elitist mentality of the government class. Election to the legislature was never envisioned as “employment” and should not be treated as such. Being a legislator is not a “job”; it’s public service. It’s a responsibility of citizenship. It isn’t about earning a living; it’s about protecting liberty. People serve in the legislature because they love freedom and they love their country. Bigger salaries will only give us bigger government, not better statesmen. Please vote NO on Prop 304.[3]

—Karen S. Johnson[12]

Leonard Kleider of Tucson released a statement opposing Proposition 304, saying,

When all acts actions or legislation of the Arizona Legislature are presented to the voters of Arizona for a binding vote every 180 days to pass or fail by a simple majority on a mailed paper ballot prior to going into effect or becoming law. Then the legislature can rest on its laurels. Almost all of Arizona's legislation belongs in a colostomy bag. But what do we expect from minimum wage Plutocratic wanna- be's.[3]

—Leonard Kleider[12]

According to the League of Women Voters of Arizona, arguments opposing Proposition 304 included:

1. Legislators receive per-diem payments along with their salary, plus mileage, health insurance and a vested pension after five years. This should suffice for what is only a part-time job, as sessions are scheduled for three months.
2. Not the time to raise salaries as the economy may have improved in the larger counties but most areas are still depressed economically.
3. Some Legislators accept free tickets from lobbyists to sporting events, concerts, etc. so they don’t need a raise in salary.[3]

—League of Women Voters of Arizona[13]

Reports and analyses

The Council of State Governments

Legislative salaries have not kept up with inflation, according to a 2007 report by The Council of State Governments. The report found that since 1975, state legislators' pay had decreased in 28 states. However, in all 50 states, the pay had not kept up with inflation. During the same time period, per capita income in the United States increased 50.62 percent, while annual legislative salaries declined by almost 7 percent, adjusting for inflation. According to the report's author, Dr. Keon Chi,

If legislators are not paid adequately, then candidates are drawn from a smaller pool. High pay broadens that pool. You can't expect to attract good candidates with pay that is lower when compared to other jobs and professions.[3]

—Dr. Keon Chi, The Council of State Governments[16]

Read a summary of the report here.

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of Arizona ballot measures, 2014


  • The Arizona Republic said,
Legislators, however, are not exactly held in high esteem. They have done plenty to embarrass Arizona. They say dumb things. All of this makes it easy for voters to say no to any pay increase, no matter how reasonable.

That's too bad. We agree with the commission that a pay increase is the rational way to encourage better candidates to run for the Legislature. We urge voters to say yes, and help the commission get that rock to the top of the hill. [3]

Arizona Republic[17]


  • The Sierra Vista Herald said,
The increase will boost the state budget by more than $1.3 million, with no significant return for taxpayers. Arizona’s pay is about in the middle of the pack compared to other states, and considering the poor condition of the economy, this is not an affordable increase at this time.


Sierra Vista Herald[18]

  • The Arizona Daily Star said,
While the governor isn’t actively opposing Prop. 304, she said she doesn’t think it’s prudent: “I think it’s extremely difficult times, and we’re still not out of the woods,” she said.

We agree. It would be good to give lawmakers a pay raise, though perhaps not a 46 percent jump — and not now, not until the state budget is firmly in the black.

The Star recommends that you vote no on Prop. 304.[3]

Arizona Daily Star[19]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing ballot measures in Arizona & Commission-referred ballot measure

The Arizona Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers conducts a review of the rates of pay for elected state officers, justices and judges of the courts of record and clerks of the Superior Court every two years. The commission voted 3 to 2 on June 25, 2014, to recommend the pay increase and refer it to a popular vote.[2]

Similar measures

See also

Suggest a link

External links

Additional reading

Fiesta Bowl scandal coverage


  1. 1.0 1.1 Arizona Secretary of State, "2014 General Election Ballot Measures," accessed July 10, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Arizona Capitol Times, "Commission recommends $11,000 pay increase for state lawmakers," June 25, 2014
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  4. Arizona Secretary of State, "Attorney General Approval of 2014 Ballot Measures," accessed September 8, 2014
  5., "Fiesta Bowl employees say bowl repaid political contributions," December 18, 2009
  6. Associated Press, "Arizona politicians figure in Fiesta Bowl scandal," June 28, 2011
  7. KTVK, "State lawmaker won't give up free tickets without a payraise," January 15, 2014
  8. National Conference of State Legislatures, "FULL- AND PART-TIME LEGISLATURES," June 1, 2009
  9. Mohave Daily News, "Three state propositions go before voters," September 25, 2014
  10. The Daily Courier, "Column: Arizona legislators need a raise - really!" March 5, 2014
  11., "Yes, we should give lawmakers an $11,000 raise," June 26, 2014
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Arizona Secretary of State, "2014 What's on My Ballot? Arizona's General Election Guide (Ballot Propositions & Judicial Performance Review): Proposition 304," accessed September 28, 2014
  13. 13.0 13.1 League of Women Voters of Arizona Education Fund: Voter Guide, "Proposition 304: State Legislators' Salaries," accessed September 29, 2014
  14. 14.0 14.1, "Are they kidding? A 45% pay raise for Arizona legislators?" June 26, 2014
  15. Sonoran Alliance, "Toby Farmer: Vote No on Legislator Pay Raises," July 22, 2014
  16. The Council of State Governments, "Legislative Pay Daze," February 2007
  17. Arizona Republic, "3 Arizona ballot initiatives in 3 words," October 7, 2014
  18. Sierra Vista Herald, "OUR VIEW: Three 'no' votes on Nov. 4," September 20, 2014
  19. Arizona Daily Star, "Proposition 304: Good idea, poor timing," October 12, 2014