House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is setting the minimum salary level for House staff to $45,000 per year, arguing the move is direly needed to retain talent.
Mrs. Pelosi, a California Democrat, informed colleagues of the decision in a letter on Friday. It marks the first time in history the House will set a minimum salary level for staff.
“With a competitive minimum salary, the House will better be able to retain and recruit excellent, diverse talent,” the speaker wrote. “This is also an issue of fairness, as many of the youngest staffers working the longest hours often earn the lowest salaries.”
Earlier this year, a bipartisan think tank issued a report noting that 1 out of 8 congressional offices were not paying wages that are comparable to the cost of living in Washington. The report estimated that there were roughly 1,200 congressional staffers making less than $42,610.
Since there are currently no rules governing pay guidelines, individual House members are responsible for setting pay levels for staff. The reality has created a wide divergence between offices.
A number of offices, most notably among progressive lawmakers, have wide-ranging pay scales with interns making as much as $15 per hour. Other offices, meanwhile, pay junior staffers salaries below $30,000 per year.
“The House of Representatives is strengthened by the many contributions of brilliant, dedicated and hard-working staff, who every day enable us [to] best serve the American people,” Mrs. Pelosi wrote.
The speaker also raised the cap for maximum staff salaries from $199,300 to $203,700. Mrs. Pelosi told members the deadline for boosting employee pay was Sept. 1.
Democratic leaders say the pay boost will be possible thanks to a 21% increase in office budgets that was included in this year’s $1.5 trillion government funding bill. The legislation raised the office budgets for House lawmakers by more than $134 million.
The increase brought the funding of House offices to more than $774 million — the highest since 1996.