Special Study: Salary, Compensation, and Allowance Comparison
The 2019 Conference Committee Report on Senate Bill 25 included a budget proviso for our office to complete this comparison. The budget proviso required that this study be presented to the Legislative Budget Committee during the 2019 legislative interim.
Our objective was to answer the following question:
- How do the salaries, compensation, and allowances paid to legislators, elected state officers, and judges in Kansas compare to those in other states?
More details about the scope of our work and the methods we used are included throughout the report.
Salaries are complex and vary from person to person. We adjusted the data for the major factors that could affect equity, such as cost-of-living and workload differences. However, we did not adjust for every possible difference. For example, we did not account for differences in job duties across states. We do not think those differences would substantively affect our comparisons. Job duty differences are a bigger issue for elected officers than either legislators or judges.
We did not follow generally accepted government auditing standards for this comparison. However, we still believe the data presented in this report provides reasonable evidence to answer the objective.
Kansas legislators, elected state officers, and judges receive lower salaries than many of the other states we reviewed.
We interpreted the terms “salary”, “compensation”, and “allowances” to mean any form of pay Kansas employees receive as set in state law.
- State law does not define each term individually. However, it does outline several ways legislators, elected state officers, and judges are paid for their services.
- Kansas legislators receive a salary as well as allowances for things like mileage and legislative office supplies.
- Kansas judges and elected state officers receive a salary, but state law does not define any additional compensation or allowances.
- We used the following data for our comparisons:
- Legislators – 2019 data from the National Conference of State Legislatures
- Elected state officers – 2018 data from the Council of State Governments
- Judges – 2019 data from the National Center for State Courts and other states data
- We adjusted all data for regional differences in the cost of living. That adjustment ensured all reported salary amounts were more comparable to salaries in Kansas. To do this, we used the Council for Community and Economic Research’s July 2019 cost-of-living index.
- Appendix B includes two tables with detailed salary information for elected state officers and judges in Kansas and other states.
We did not calculate the value of health insurance and retirement benefits because it is very difficult and time consuming to compare.
- Legislators, elected state officers, and judges can participate in the state’s health insurance and retirement benefit plans.
- These individuals can take part in a variety of different benefit plans offered to all state employees.
- We did not quantify or compare the value of plan benefits for Kansas or for other states. Comparing these benefits across states would take a great deal of time and would require special expertise (e.g. the use of actuaries).
- Data was readily available on whether legislators could receive health insurance and retirement benefits, so we included this information. It was not readily available for elected state officers or judges, so we did not.
We used 2019 National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) data for our legislative pay comparisons.
- We used 2019 NCSL data to compare legislators’ base salaries, per diem rates, mileage allowances, supplies allowances, benefit offerings, and extra leadership salaries for Kansas and 14 other states. The NCSL data is based on the statutory amounts in each state.
- We compared legislators’ pay in Kansas to nine other states that have part-time legislatures. NCSL classifies Kansas and nine other states as having part-time legislatures. Their classification is based on the hours legislators reported spending on legislative work and the amount of staff they reported.
- We also compared legislators’ pay in Kansas to five nearby states that fall into a “hybrid” NCSL category. Legislators in these states reported working more than part-time but less than full-time. They also reported having more staff than Kansas legislators.
- To better compare pay across states, we calculated legislators’ annual pay (salary plus per diem amount) for each state assuming a 92-day session. The average legislative session in Kansas since 2000 is 92 days. Using slightly more or fewer days did not affect our results.
- Legislative pay is complicated and varies significantly based on each legislator’s circumstances. For example, how far a legislator lives from Topeka may influence his or her salary and what percentage is subject to federal and state income taxes. We did not account for these individual differences. Although we could not account for everything, we think we accounted for what is most important.
- We reviewed the NCSL data and determined it was reliable for our comparisons.
Kansas legislators’ estimated annual pay is lower than many of the 14 other states we reviewed.
- Kansas legislators receive a base salary and subsistence allowance (called a “per diem”). State law sets these amounts (K.S.A. 46-137a). We included these amounts in our comparison and refer to them as “pay.”
- Legislators receive a base salary for each day of the legislative session. In Kansas, it is currently set at $88.66 per day (or about $8,200 per year assuming a 92-day session).
- They also receive per diem allowance for each day of the legislative session. The per diem covers at least part of the costs for meals and lodging. In Kansas, it is currently set at $149 per day (or about $13,700 per year assuming a 92-day session).
- We combined the statutory base salary and statutory per diem amounts into one number for the pay comparison. Some states provide a per diem range based on how far legislators live from the capitol. In these cases, we used the midpoint pay for our comparison. The pay amounts in our comparison should be viewed as estimates for these reasons.
- As Figure 1 shows, the estimated annual pay for Kansas legislators is lower than 8 of the 14 states we reviewed.
- Kansas is in the mid-range for states with part-time legislatures
- Kansas is lower than most nearby states with hybrid legislatures.
- Kansas legislators also receive allowances for mileage and legislative office supplies that are set by state law.
- Legislators receive a mileage allowance for one round trip each week during the legislative session.
- They also receive a fixed allowance for office supplies. The supplies allowance covers at least part of the costs for postage, telephone, office, and other incidental expenses.
- We excluded these amounts in legislator pay comparisons. However, we noted which states offer them and which do not in Figure 4.
- Most states provide a mileage reimbursement and the rates are similar because they are tied to federal law. Therefore, mileage allowances do not substantively affect how legislators’ pay compares across states.
- Only a few of the states we reviewed have office supply allowances and they vary a lot. We did not include these allowances as pay because each state has different office arrangements and sizes.
Kansas legislative leaders’ extra salaries are higher than in most of the other 14 states we reviewed, but that had little effect on how they compared to other state leaders in terms of total pay.
- Leadership positions in Kansas include:
- the senate president, vice president, majority and minority leaders, assistant majority and minority leaders, and the ways and means chairperson.
- the house speaker, speaker pro tem, majority and minority leaders, assistant majority and minority leaders, and the appropriations chairperson.
- Legislative leaders receive extra salaries for their additional duties. State law sets these amounts (K.S.A. 46-137b).
- Leadership receives a salary for the duration of their term in that position. This pay is added to their regular pay as compensation for their extra duties.
- The amount of extra salary leaders receive varies by position. In Kansas, it ranges from an extra $7,200 per year for assistant majority and minority leaders to an extra $14,000 per year for the senate president and house speaker.
- Most of the other states we reviewed provided extra leadership salaries. However, those amounts were typically smaller than in Kansas across leadership positions as shown in Figure 2.
- The extra pay legislative leaders receive in Kansas is higher than most other states. We looked at how leaders’ extra salaries affected our legislator pay comparison. Figure 3 shows legislators’ annual pay (the same amounts shown in Figure 1) plus the senate president and house speaker’s extra salaries. As the figure shows, this extra salary had little effect on how Kansas leaders’ total pay compared to other states.
- The NCSL data also contained information about additional benefits legislators receive such as health insurance and retirement benefits. That information is shown in Figure 4.
Elected State Officers’ Salaries
We used 2018 Council of State Governments (CSG) data to compare six elected state officers’ annual salaries in Kansas to those same positions in all other 49 states.
- The CSG data is based on the statutory amounts in each state. Governors in some states waived or reduced their salary from the amount set in state law. In these cases, our comparison shows the statutory salaries.
- The six positions in our comparison are held by elected officers in Kansas, but that is not true in all states. Some states may appoint individuals to these positions. The Governor is the only state officer that is elected in all 50 states.
- The Kansas Lieutenant Governor’s salary can be increased by the Governor above the minimum rate set in state law. The Kansas Lieutenant Governor’s salary fluctuated significantly from about $30,000 to $100,000 per year since 2008. This means the Lieutenant Governor’s salary may look very different compared to other states in any given year. We used the Kansas Lieutenant Governor’s actual salary for our salary comparison.
- We reviewed the CSG data and determined it was reliable for our purposes.
Kansas six elected state officers’ annual salaries are lower than in most other 49 states.
- Elected state officers in Kansas receive a salary as pay for their services. State law sets those amounts (K.S.A. 75-3101 – 75-3110 and K.S.A. 40-102).
- There are six elected officers in Kansas, including the: Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Insurance Commissioner, Secretary of State, and State Treasurer.
- The Insurance Commissioner, Secretary of State, and State Treasurer’s salaries are the same. The remaining three elected officers’ salaries vary by position.
- As Figures 5, 6, and 7 show, the six elected state officers in Kansas receive lower salaries than those positions in most other states.
- Elected officers in Kansas do not receive any other compensation or allowances in state law. To the extent other states provide any of these benefits, Kansas pay for elected state officers would compare even lower than the data show.
- Elected officers in Kansas can participate in health insurance and retirement benefits like other state employees. However, the CSG data did not include comparable information for other states.
We used 2019 National Center for State Courts (NCSC) data to compare supreme court, court of appeals, and district court judges’ annual salaries in Kansas and all 49 other states.
- The NCSC data includes the statutory amounts in each state. It represents judges’ actual salaries at that time. NCSC told us that judges’ salaries are set by statute in most states and generally do not vary by experience.
- For district magistrate judges’ salary, we used self-reported information from nine other states that have similar positions based on a 2019 NCSC study. Five of those states require district magistrates to have a law degree, and four states do not. This requirement has a large effect on salary. For the states we reviewed, the average salary in states that require a law degree is double the average salary in the other states. In Kansas, district magistrate judges are not required to have a law degree.
- Judge salaries are set in state law but may be supplemented by counties. For example, Kansas Office of Judicial Administration staff said three Kansas counties supplement the salaries for magistrate judges in their district. The NCSC data does not account for those additional amounts. Thus, that information is not included in our comparisons.
- We reviewed the NCSC data and determined it was reliable for our comparisons.
Kansas judges’ annual salaries are lower than in most of the other 49 states.
- Kansas judges receive a salary as pay for their services. State law sets these amounts (K.S.A. 75-3120 et seq.).
- We reviewed the salary of four judge positions in Kansas, including: supreme court justices, court of appeals judges, district court judges, and district magistrate judges.
- As Figure 8 shows, supreme court justices, court of appeals judges, and district court judges in Kansas receive lower salaries than in most other states.
- District magistrate judges in Kansas receive a lower salary than six of the nine states we reviewed for this position as shown in Figure 9. However, nearly all of those states required magistrate judges to have a law degree.
- Judges in Kansas do not receive any other compensation or allowances in state law. To the extent other states provide any of these benefits, Kansas pay for judges would compare even lower than the data show.
- Judges in Kansas can also participate in health insurance and retirement benefits like other state employees. However, the NCSC data did not include comparable information for other states.
Appendix A – Cited References
This appendix includes a list of the major reports that we relied on for information in this study.
- 2019 Legislator Compensation (June, 2019). National Conference of State Legislatures.
- Book of the States (2018). Council of State Governments.
- Judicial Salary Tracker (July, 2019). National Center for State Courts.
Appendix B – Data Tables
This appendix includes tables with the adjusted salary amounts we used in our elected state officer and judge comparisons.