Politics doesn’t always pay — at least, not on the surface.
The US does not have a uniform method for determining how much legislators earn annually. Political encyclopedia Ballotpedia analyzed the salaries of state representatives from all 50 states to see who makes the most and who makes the least.
Politicians in California — where Democrats control both houses of the state legislature — make the most money, earning on average $110,459 a year. In New Hampshire, state representatives are paid just $100 on average. New Mexico’s state-level politicians make the least, earning $0 for their efforts, though the legislature meets part-time.
Calculating and comparing how much politicians are paid isn’t straightforward. Some states shell out standard annual salaries, while others determine pay based on how many days a politician works. And even the definition of “a day” varies throughout the US when it comes to calculating pay for politicians, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL): In some places it’s simply a calendar day, while other states only count “legislative days,” when legislators are actually in session — which also differs from state to state.
Some states, like California, have full-time legislators (defined by NCSL as requiring 80% or more of a full time job), who are typically paid a higher annual salary. Other states have part-time legislators (around the equivalent of half of a full-time job), which pay either lower annual salaries (as in Maine) or a day-rate (as in Montana). Still other states are defined as “hybrid” legislatures — per NCSL, state representatives in these places generally spend the equivalent of over two-thirds of a full time job being legislators.
Keep reading to find out how much state representatives earn around the country, ranked in ascending order of pay.
(Note that this information, which only includes base salaries and not varying per diem rates, is current as of Ballotpedia’s last available update on March 1, 2019.)