Politician Salaries in the United States

Every Politician's Salary, From the State House to White House

A politician counting money in front of the US Capitol Building
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The salary of a politician ranges from zero to six figures in the United States, with those serving at the local levels earning the least and those elected to state and federal offices earning the most. If you're thinking about running for public officemaybe Congress, you'll want to know what your paycheck will look like.

The answer depends on the job. Elected positions on your town council may come with a small stipend but are usually unpaid volunteer positions. Most county-level elected positions come with a living wage. But it's really when you get to the state and federal levels where politicians' salaries start to rise. Here's a look at politicians' salaries in the United States.

President

The president of the United States is paid $400,000 a year for his service as the nation's commander-in-chief. Congress has given the president a raise exactly five times since President George Washington took office in 1789. Congress last raised the pay to its current level in 1999. The vice president earns $235,100 annually, as of January 2020.

Members of Congress

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate earn a base salary of $174,000 a year. Some people think that's way too much given the relatively few days they spend debating legislation every year, and some feel it's too little given the amount of work outside the House and Senate floors they actually do.

Governors

Governors are paid between $70,000 and $201,000 for their work as their state's top executive, according to the Council of State Governments. "The states with the five highest gubernatorial salaries in 2018 were California at $201,680 (and) New York at $200,000....The states with the lowest gubernatorial salaries in 2018 were Maine at $70,000 (and) Colorado at $90,000," notes Ballotopidia.

State Legislators

The pay for state legislators varies widely and depends on whether they work for one of the 10 full-time legislatures or the remaining part-time legislatures. Full-time elected lawmakers at the state level make an average of $75,415, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The average compensation for part-time legislators, by comparison, is $12,838.

If you get elected to California's legislature, you'll be making more than your colleagues in any other state: Its $110,459 base salary for lawmakers is the highest in the nation. If you get elected to New Hampshire's part-time legislature, you'd better have another job lined up; elected lawmakers there earn just $200 per two-year term.

County Politicians

Like state legislators, county commissioners and executives are paid varied sums depending on the population they represent and other factors. The average pay for a county executive-level position is nearly $79,784.

The top elected officials in Detroit, Houston, Atlanta, and New York City each earn between $183,000 and $202,000 a year, according to ZipRecruiter. In Rochester, New York, the pay is about $169,000. By contrast, county commissioners nationwide earn an average annual salary of about $47,500 a year, and in many cases, their paychecks are about the same as what state legislators are paid in their states.

Local Elected Officials 

If you're the mayor of a big city such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, or Houston, you're doing fine. The mayors of those cities are paid about $200,000. (And the Mayor of San Francisco earns more than $300,000 a year. )

If you're a mayor making the average annual salary for the position nationally, however, you'd bring in about $56,000 a year. If your city or township is small, the mayor and council members may only get stipends or serve as unpaid volunteers. This is somewhat ironic, given that the decisions your local elected officials make often have a greater—or at least more immediate and visible—impact on your daily life.

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Murse, Tom. "Politician Salaries in the United States." ThoughtCo, Aug. 12, 2021, thoughtco.com/how-much-do-politicians-earn-3367616. Murse, Tom. (2021, August 12). Politician Salaries in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-much-do-politicians-earn-3367616 Murse, Tom. "Politician Salaries in the United States." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-much-do-politicians-earn-3367616 (accessed November 29, 2021).