The Senate Rules Committee, which manages the operations of the Senate, approved raises for staff of 3 percent this year and 3 percent next year, as well as a $1,500 lump sum payment this year. 

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said the raises are in line with private sector pay and appropriate given several years of salary freezes during the recession and leaner state budgets. 

Staff pay ranges from $33,259 for the lowest paid legislative assistants to $148,186 for the Secretary of the Senate, who is the administrator for the body. 

The committee also passed a $60.2 million two-year budget to operate the Senate and facilities. Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, pointed out a significant increase of 15 percent from 2016 to 2017, mostly due to added costs related to the new Senate office building. The $76 million building, currently under construction, has been a contentious political issue since it was approved, with Republicans citing it as an example of govenrment largesse. 

Bakk said eventually the Legislature will have to deal with the issue of legislator -- as opposed to staff -- pay; legislators make $31,500 per year plus per diem on days served and have not received a raise since 1999.

Bakk said he has lost several capable candidates for office because they could not commit to the time required for so little money. 

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Sen. Tom Bakk, Gov. Mark Dayton speaking today for first time in weeks