BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – State legislators made a renewed effort to raise the pay for those elected in the next term but the optics of the move created a major challenge.

Legislators have not seen a pay raise since the ’80s. They have been making $16,800 a year plus funds for per diem costs for over 40 years. The last effort was in 2008, which was vetoed by Gov. Bobby Jindal. State Rep. Joe Marino, I-Gretna, wanted to bring the bill to make the salary one that would allow more people of diverse backgrounds to run for office.

“Who can afford to do this job for $16,800? It’s a very small group of people. In government it is not representative when only a small group can do it,” Marino said.

The proposal was for 75% of the state’s median income, coming out to about $40,000 a year. Legislators in favor said they knew they would be taking a financial hit running for office, but not everyone has the ability to do so. Those who live far from the capital region also have to consider housing options in the area during the legislative session.

The House recently removed teacher pay raises from the budget in favor of paying down teacher retirement debt. Some legislators who support that plan have been mindful of the looming fiscal cliff of about $800 million. With all that in mind, there was a lot of conversation about if it was the right time to pass the bill.

“What I don’t agree with is the current mechanism that we are in control of awarding ourselves a pay raise when teachers deserve a pay raise,” said State Rep. Jason Hughes, D-New Orleans, “Hard-working women and men in law enforcement certainly deserve a pay raise. State workers and the list goes on.”

The raises would not have gone into effect until 2024 under a new administration. Many House and Senate seats are up for re-election this fall. Marino, who brought the bill, is not seeking re-election.

“We’re setting an example. We can’t give ourselves a raise when we can’t do everything else that everybody else wants,” State Rep. Tony Bacala, R-Prairieville, said.

The bill was struck down with a 16-5 vote in the House Appropriations Committee. Some members said they hope the conversation will continue into future years and supported the idea of putting legislator pay raises under the responsibility of another entity rather than be voted on by the legislators themselves.