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How Much Money Does a Senator Make?

by Beth Greenwood

Although the average net worth of most members of the U.S. Congress in 2012 was almost $1 million, according to “U.S. News & World Report Money,” U.S. senators also earn a salary for their efforts and are eligible for a number of benefits and tax deductions. In addition, they may earn “outside income.” Certain positions, such as the majority and minority leaders in the Senate, have higher salaries than the rank and file. Salaries for state senators vary by state.

U.S. Senators

In the U.S. Senate, the compensation for U.S. senators has been set at $174,000 annually since 2009, according to the Congressional Research Service. The salaries of the President pro tempore of the Senate and the majority and minority leaders are set at $193,400.These salaries do not change even in the face of additional responsibilities, such as congressional leadership positions or committee chair responsibilities. In addition, senators may earn outside income up to 15 percent of their salaries, although certain kinds of activities or income are prohibited.

Benefits and Allowances

In addition to their salaries, senators are eligible for benefits that effectively raise their income. They may, for example, deduct for tax purposes up to $3,000 in living expenses each year when they are away from their home districts. Unlike a business owner who must pay for her employee’s wages out of the business’s income, a senator is entitled to $944,671 a year for staff salaries. Senators have a Member’s Representational Allowance that includes both staff salary funds and money for official expenses such as travel, mail, office equipment, district office rental, stationery and other office supplies. In 2012, the allowances averaged $1,353,205, according to the Congressional Research Service. Members’ allowances vary according to the distance from the member’s district to Washington, D.C.

State Senators

State legislators are compensated by the individual states, according to the Empire Center for State Policy. Some are paid by the day, others by the week or year; some are paid only when the legislature is in session. The state of Maine has different pay rates for the sessions -- the annual pay rate for the first session is $13,852 and for the second session, $9,661. Some states, such as Louisiana, offer expense allowances in addition to per diem rates. In Wyoming, senators are paid $150 a day when the state Senate is in session and $300 a month when it is not in session.

Salaries and Per Diem Rates

State senator salaries vary according to the state, and there may be other factors that affect compensation, according to the Empire Center for State Policy. Georgia pays an annual salary of $17,342 plus a per diem expense rate of $173 a day, while Massachusetts pays $61,133 per year. The Massachusetts per diem rate varies from $10 to $100 a day, depending on the distance from the statehouse. In Alaska, the annual salary is $50,400 annually, and the per diem expense rate varies from $238 to $253 per day depending on the time of year. In California, the annual salary is $95,291 a year -- per diem expense rate is $141.86 for each day in session.

About the Author

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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