When Arnie Arnesen was elected to the New Hampshire state House of Representatives in 1984, she was 31 years old and pregnant. “I couldn’t afford infant daycare,” she remembers, “so I showed up and breastfed on the floor of the House.”
Her district was well northwest of the state capitol, so the combination of the commute and her legislative duties kept her more than a little busy: “How do you have a job where you’re traveling down to Concord — an hour and a half each way, three days a week — and think you could have a life? I took it as an opportunity even though it was a financial liability.”
For her hard work, Arnesen received a $100 salary from the state’s treasury — per year.
The state’s lawmakers have never gotten a pay raise. Since 1889, the New Hampshire constitution has set the salary for its state legislators at $200 per two-year term (about $5,500 in today’s money). “When they put the $200 in the constitution,” Arnesen said, “that was half the average wage of a New Hampshire worker. It reflected a reasonable salary, but that’s never changed. And the question is why not? They don’t want young people [or] diversity.” The result, she says, is that over her four terms in the House and in the decades since, the state legislature has been almost exclusively “made up of the rich, the retired, and the remunerated — because they don’t need the cash.”More ...