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Possible move to salaried legislators in the works in New Mexico

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November 15, 2011

By Geoff Pallay

New Mexico

SANTA FE, New Mexico: Currently, legislators in New Mexico receive only stipends as compensation for their work as public officials.

The per diem received while in session makes New Mexico the only state that does not have a formalized pay structure for legislators. Legislators are not the lowest-paid -- New Mexico officials receive $200 for a two-year term -- but most states have more substantial salaries.

Recently, a combination of editorials and legislative opinions imply there is a growing bi-partisan push for a change to the New Mexico Constitution to instill salaries, ranging from $25,000 to $50,000 per year.[1]

"We romanticize the citizen Legislature in New Mexico, but the truth of it is that not many people can afford to run for a job that does not pay," said State representative Antonio Maestas (D).[2]

One reason cited is the increasing revolving door of legislators becoming lobbyist. Governor of New Mexico Susana Martinez (R) has proposed a ban on legislators becoming lobbyists for at least two years once they leave office. Most recently, Kent Cravens (R) resigned to become a lobbyist for New Mexico Oil & Gas Association. Some legislators said a one-year ban would help remove the perception that legislators are corrupt.[3]