The salaries of state senators vary not only by state but also by payment terms. Most states pay their state legislatures in terms of an annual base salary plus a per diem allowance, and others may pay per term served. Some states offer no base payment to state senators while other offer no per diem payment.
Highest Annual Basic Salaries
Most state legislatures pay their senators with an annual salary. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), in 2010 the highest annual salaries were enjoyed by senators in California, at an average of $95,291 a year. This was closely followed by Michigan (average of $79,650 a year), New York ($79,500) and Pennsylvania ($78,314.66). Other high annual salaries could be found in Alaska ($50,400), Ohio ($60,584), Illinois ($67,836) and Massachusetts ($58,237.15).
Lowest Annual Basic Salaries
The lowest annual basic salaries, according to the NCSL, where in Texas, where they averaged $7,200 a year. Mississippi came second, at $10,000, followed by South Carolina ($10,400) and Nebraska ($12,000). Other salaries that were relatively low included Arkansas ($15,362), Idaho ($16,116) and North Carolina ($13,951).
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Basic Salaries by Term
Some states pay their senators by term, instead of annually. This included New Hampshire, which in 2010 paid state senators a mere $200 per two-year term, and South Dakota, which paid an average of $12,000 per term. Virginia paid legislators $18,000 for each year served in the Senate and $17,640 for each year in the House of Delegates, according to the NCSL.
Other states paid senators by the hour, instead of an annual salary. These include Alabama, at $10 a day, Kansas ($88.66), Kentucky ($186.73) and Montana, which averages $82.64 a day in 2011, according to the NCSL. New Mexico does did not pay its senators.
Per Diem Salaries
Most state legislatures pay senators on a per diem basis, which covers any expenses incurred for tasks completed on special projects away from home. Many legislatures prefer this method as a main method of payment, as it allows senators to be paid only when the state legislature actually meets. Alabama, for example, pays senators $3,958 a month plus $50 a day for three days during each week the legislature meets. Michigan allows for a $12,000 annual expense allowance, and California paid $173 for each day its Legislature is in session in 2010, according to the NCSL.