Great first step for state employees: TX House and Senate raise staff pay

This week, the Texas House and Senate both approved resolutions that will allow elected officials to raise the lagging salaries of their own staff. Our updated analysis last week showed just how far behind state pay has failed to keep pace with rising costs of living in Austin as well as with acute recent inflation. 

The Texas Senate unanimously approved an increase in monthly office budgets from $41,000 to $60,000 per month. While this is a substantial bump, this reflects their larger constituencies — approximately five times the size of House member districts — and a corresponding need to keep a larger, more experienced staff.

By a 147 to 2 vote, the House approved an increase in monthly office budgets that will amount to a total of $48,000 per year. House Administration Chair Will Metcalf’s initial proposal included a modest increase of monthly budgets by $2,000 per month. A later amendment also offered by Chair Metcalf increased the proposed monthly budget by an additional $2,000 per month. 

As we mentioned in our recent analysis, median annual pay for full-time House staff in October 2022 was $45,600, which is below the 60% MFI threshold (currently $46,380 for a single person) to qualify for City of Austin subsidized affordable rental units. The nominal 26-30% increase in monthly House member budget — monthly allocation varies depending on whether the Legislature is in session or not — will allow these elected officials to better recruit and retain talent while offering salaries that keep staff off of public assistance.

The efforts by House and Senate leadership to prioritize and take action on their own state employees’ salaries is a strong first step in a session where Texas 2036 believes the Legislature can and should make investment in the compensation of our broader state workforce. In the upcoming weeks, we will highlight the issues created by decreasingly competitive salaries and how it impacts our government’s ability to attract and retain talent to deliver the excellent service that Texans expect for their tax dollars.