Congressional staff bonuses plummet in 2011
Traditional fourth-quarter staff bonuses plummeted in the House of Representatives as budget cuts have taken their toll.
The average congressional aide earned a 3.6% salary increase in the fourth quarter of 2011, an almost two-thirds drop from last year's rate and nearly half the previous low since LegiStorm started tracking salaries in 2000.
LegiStorm added the House's 2011 fourth quarter salaries to our site today following yesterday's release by the House of Representatives. The new data allowed us to take our first look at the bonus habits of the 112th Congress. Many Republican members of Congress were swept to power on promises to cut spending, and the House imposed cuts to the amount that members could spend. Overall spending and bonuses were both down compared to previous years.
In some cases, the bonuses were more than modest. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) more than doubled his staff's average salary in the fourth quarter last year. The average aide in Moran's office made $26,750 in the fourth quarter, compared to an average quarterly salary of $12,160 in the first three quarters of the year, a jump of 120%.
Oklahoma representatives took the next two spots in the list of members handing out the greatest year-end pay increases. Both Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) increased their average staff salary more than 65% for the final quarter.
However, the average House aide made nearly $700 less in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared to 2010. The average fourth quarter salary in 2010 was a record $21,632. In 2011, staffers took home an average $20,941 in the final three months of the year.
Fourth quarter payrolls traditionally jump up compared to the rest of the year. Members have a set allowance for all expenses during the year, and often reward staff by giving out bonuses with money left in the budget. Any unused money gets returned to the U.S. Treasury. Although bonuses for individual staffers are difficult to determine due to the reporting methods, LegiStorm compiles the bonus numbers by finding how much the fourth quarter payrolls increase compared to the previous three quarters.
The 3.6% rise in average monthly compensation in the fourth quarter of 2011 is the smallest increase since at least 2001, the earliest date covered by LegiStorm's salary data. The previous low was 7% in 2009, and last year 4th quarter salaries rose 9.4%.
The average bonus numbers above cover all House employees, including staff in leadership and administrative offices, which traditionally do not show the same fourth-quarter compensation increases. This year, the average staffer working in the personal office of a member of the House of Representatives got an 11.2% pay increase in the fourth quarter. That rate is still significantly down from 2010, when members' payrolls jumped an average of 20.2%.