Oregon Legislator Salary Analysis

Oregon Legislators’ Salaries

Oregon legislators’ salaries have been below Oregon annual median wages for all occupations since at least 2002. Oregon Revised Statutes 171.072 sets legislators’ salaries.

With passage of House Bill 2597 (2013), determination of State Senator and State Representative annual salaries shifted from the Oregon Public Officials Compensation Commission to the Legislative Assembly.

House Bill 4163 (2018) changed the way legislators’ salaries are determined to “one step below the maximum step of the greater of Salary Range 1 in the Management Service Compensation Plan in the executive department as defined in ORS 174.112 or Seventeen percent of the salary of a circuit court judge.” Under the new law, the Assembly received a 29% raise in 2019 and another 5% in 2021.

Senate Bill 1566 (2022) proposes to change legislators’ annual salaries to “the annual occupational mean wage estimate for Oregon, as determined for the prior calendar year by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the United States Department of Labor and the state Employment Department.” The adjustement would “be made only once every two years” for “pay periods beginning July 1 following the determination of the annual occupational mean wage estimate.” “[T]he amount a member of the Legislative Assembly receives for services may not be decreased by more than two percent from the annual salary the member received in the prior calendar year.”

The last reported annual mean wage for Oregon was $56,880 in 2020. Estimates are released annually in May. Oregon legislators currently receive an annual salary of $32,839. Changing to the mean wage would have resulted in an $24,041 (73%) increase. The annual mean wage for Oregon has not dropped during the 20 year period examined. So, the provision that prevents wages from decreasing more than two percent is not needed.

The annual mean wage for Oregon during the period 2002–2020 has been consistently 30% higher than the annual median wage. The greater mean wage indicates the wage distribution in Oregon is skewed toward higher earners. The mean is not a robust statistic because it is largely influenced by outliers. The median is a better measure of central tendency of skewed distributions because it isn’t influenced by outliers.