Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt reversed himself Friday, saying he would authorize legislative pay raises for House members.
Daudt, R-Crown, made the decision a day after two state legislators sued, alleging that he had violated the state Constitution by not approving higher salaries called for by an independent Legislative Salary Council.
“In light of recent court rulings and with the advice of counsel, it has become increasingly clear that the Minnesota House is constitutionally required to pay legislators the prescribed amount,” Daudt said in a statement. “We intend to move forward by instituting the salary set by the Council.”
Minnesota voters overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment in November creating the pay council, an independent body charged with setting legislative salaries.
In March, that commission set legislative salaries at $45,000 per year, up from the $31,140, an amount that has not changed for nearly two decades.
GOP Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka accepted the salary hike, saying that the Constitution requires it and that there’s nothing legislative leaders can do to stop it.
All 67 senators began getting the higher salary on July 1. Daudt disagreed, and ordered the House comptroller to continue paying the 134 representatives the old $31,140 salary.
Rep. Marion O’Neill, R-Maple Lake, and Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, who filed the lawsuit in Ramsey County District Court, could not be reached for comment.
Former GOP state Sen. Brian LeClair, a frequent critic of Daudt on the pay issue, said the speaker “is either a horrible flip-flopper, or a massive big government spender. In either situation, it does not make him a good conservative choice for governor.”
Daudt said he has not decided whether he will run for governor.