This Interactive Map Shows Which States Have The Highest Paid Politicians

We mapped out which state legislators pay themselves the most.

If you’re anything like us here at Zippia, you’re probably watching this ongoing political circus, head and hands, and feeling exhausted. And we’re not even participating!

Can you imagine how tiring it must be to actually run for political office? To actually hold such a position? And sure, these guys clogging up our news stations are… kind of a big deal—but no matter the office, being a politician sounds exhausting.

And if you’re thinking, yeah, sure, but they get paid a ton! Well, you’re right—and also, completely wrong in some cases. It varies completely from state to state. So in today’s map, we thought we’d show you just how varied it really is.

For example, the governor in Pennsylvania makes nearly $190,000 per year, while the governor in Maine makes less than half of that—$70,000. The same crazy gap in pay applies to State Reps as well. In California, they’re paid $97,197 (pretty darn good for a state rep), while in New Hampshire, they are literally paid $100 per year. Yes, you read that correctly.

But we’ll get more into the nitty gritty details later. First, we should probably explain how we got these numbers in the first place.

Which States Have The Highest Paid Politicans?

You can access an image of the map here.

How We Determined The Pay Of Government Officials In Each State

Okay, so how we got these numbers in the first place. First, we chose three criteria (which were all equally weighted) in order to determine how much a state pays their state representatives:

  • 1. Cost of Living - We used the state's living wage as proxy for a cost living.
  • 2. Governor's Wage – Pretty straight forward
  • 3. State Representative Wage – Not so straight forward

Living wages were taken from MIT's living wage calculation which we mapped here.

The pay for governors was taken from BallotPedia and is just one number.

Aaaand, state representative pay is a mess.

Here’s the short of it: About ten states take the common sense approach of paying politicians an annual salary. Makes sense, right? Well, a majority of states don’t do that.

They pay a base salary plus per diems for each day of work. BUT, because this is politics, the definition of a “day” gets a little hairy. Sometimes it's a day the legislator is actually in session and other times it's a calendar day.

Furthermore, session lengths vary by year. Odd years will be one length and even will be another. And they can start any time and end any time the state decides.

Oh, and state senators get paid differently from state representatives—sometimes.

Sooo, at the end of the day we tried to create an apples to apples comparison across states by adding up base pay and per diems for an average session length. When senators and representatives are paid differently, we used the lower amount.

Yea, fun, we know. If you want to slog through the pay schedules, you can do so here.

And if not, keep reading and we’ll take a closer look at the five states with the highest… and lowest politician pay rates.

Highest Politician Salaries

1. Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania pretty much takes the cake in both the state governor and state rep categories—with a salary of $187,818 and $85,338.65 (exactly), respectively.

2. Ohio

Ohio makes the top five, mostly because of its impressively high governor salary of $148,886. The State Rep is not so lucky (but still, $60,584 is nothing to sneeze at.)

3. Tennessee

Okay, this is a case where the governor is paid way more than the State Rep. Which you’ll see again. And again. And again. Anyway, in Tennessee, the governor makes a whopping $181,980 per year, while the Rep makes under $40,000. Hm.

4. Michigan

Good on you Michigan—you guys pay both your State Rep and governor pretty well; $159,300 and $71,685, respectively.

5. West Virginia

If you’re looking to go into politics in West Virginia, you might want to consider running for governor. They get paid $150,000, while State Reps make a mere $27,860.

Lowest Politician Salaries

1. New Hampshire

Here’s the thing: New Hampshire’s governors are not paid badly, at all. The thing that brings this state down (way down—like the lowest on this list), is the yearly salary for State Reps. $100. Per year. Yes, that’s real.

2. Maine

Okay, $100 per year is bad, but $14,100 per year for a State Rep is just as un-livable, in one of the most expensive states in the country. Guess what we’re saying here is, if you want to be Maine’s State Rep… don’t quit your day job!

3. Kansas

Here’s a state that pays good salary to their governor-- $99, 636. Their State Rep on the other hand? This guy (or gal) is set to make a cool $9,315 per year.

4. Wyoming

Speaking of GIANT pay disparities—in this state, governors make over $100K per year. State reps make… $7,770. Per year. Yeah.

5. New Mexico (tied)

Last but certainly not least (for real—New Hampshire was least), we have New Mexico. A state where governor’s work is valued about 15 times higher than that of a State Representative.

It’s Just Politics

If you’re thinking about running for office, we hope that this map has helped you out. Perhaps you’ve decided to run for governor, over state rep; perhaps you’ve decided that another state might be better suited for you (or your salary needs); or maybe you’ve decided to just throw in the towel altogether. If that’s the case, we don’t blame you. Just writing this thing was exhausting.

Governor Wage By State (Highest to Lowest)

12 - Texas
16 - Nevada
17 - Ohio
19 - Vermont
20 - Alaska
22 - Hawaii
24 - Georgia
27 - Florida
28 - Iowa
34 - Alabama
36 - Idaho
37 - Indiana
39 - Utah
40 - Montana
42 - Wyoming
45 - Kansas
46 - Oregon
47 - Arizona
50 - Maine

State Rep Pay By State (Highest to Lowest)

5 - Alaska
6 - Hawaii
9 - Ohio
16 - Alabama
18 - Iowa
22 - Indiana
23 - Florida
25 - Oregon
27 - Arizona
31 - Georgia
32 - Nevada
35 - Texas
36 - Utah
37 - Idaho
40 - Vermont
41 - Maine
45 - Kansas
46 - Montana
48 - Wyoming

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