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Last weekend, my wife and I had the opportunity go on our first date night in nearly three months. In between raising our amazing two-month-old daughter, the daily trek to and from the Capitol, and running a nonprofit, there simply has not been a night for Lauren and I. My family will always be the most important part of my life, but I also was elected to represent nearly 40,000 of my neighbors in downtown and South Omaha.
I am lucky to be in a position where I can make sacrifices, but I fully recognize that for so many, public office is unattainable and offers little incentive to sacrifice valuable family time. That is why I introduced LR12CA, which will ask voters to raise legislator pay to 50% of Nebraska’s median household income. It is my hope that LR12CA will make elected office more accessible for thousands of Nebraskans as we seek to build a more representative Legislature in Lincoln.
At $12,000 per year, Nebraska falls far behind many states with similar costs-of-living, such as Arkansas, Michigan, and Iowa. When considering inflation, average legislator pay has decreased substantially over the past 30 years, especially in states like Nebraska which haven’t increased pay since 1989.
This low salary prevents many Nebraskans from participating in government at the highest capacity. Nebraska boasts of a citizen legislature, but can we really say that honestly when so many of our fellow Nebraskans are essentially precluded from serving in office due to the financial barrier?
Higher legislative pay has several benefits. First, candidate recruitment becomes less difficult. Lawmakers and advocacy groups on both sides of the political aisle in Nebraska who once opposed increasing legislator pay now support it because they are struggling to recruit candidates. Second, it allows a broader range of citizens to consider running for office. Higher pay enables Nebraskans of all income-levels and in all districts to consider elected office.