The salaries and benefits provided to politicians vary widely based on the office they hold. While not nearly as big as the salaries of leaders in the private sector, a politician can still make a respectable amount of money.
The salary for the President of the United States is determined by Congress. The Constitution guarantees that a President cannot have their salary changed while serving a term as President. This is found in Article II, Section I of the Constitution. The last change to the President’s salary happened in 2001. Congress voted in late 2000 to change the annual salary beginning with the next presidential term from $200,000 to $400,000. Presidents also receive a $50,000 expense allowance.
Retired United States Presidents receive an annual pension that is equal to the current salary of the Cabinet Secretaries. In 2013 this amount was $199,700. In addition to their retirement pension, they can receive money to help them transition to life in the private sector. This money can be used to help set up offices and pay for staff used in the transition. These expenses in the past have totaled over $1 million per transition.
United States Senators and Congressmen receive the same pay. In 2013 their annual salary was set at $174,000. Leaders of the House and Senate do receive more money for their services. The Majority and Minority Leaders of both the House and Senate have an annual salary of $193,400, while the Speaker of the House receives $223,500.
In addition to their annual salary, Members of the House of Representatives receive The Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA) which helps to offset any expenses that come about from their duties such was office, personal and mailing expenses. These expenses vary depending on how far they live from Washington, DC and how much office space rental is in their home district. Expenses for mailings are based on how many mailing addresses are in their district. The funds for the MRA are set by the House each year as part of their federal budget. In 2012 the average MRA allowance for a Congressman was over $1.3 million.
The MRA stipulates that each Congressman can hire no more than 18 full time and 4 part time or temporary employees. The salary for any employee cannot exceed $168,411. All House members must submit a quarterly report of how they disbursed their MRA allowance.
Senators receive what is called The Senators’ Official Personnel and Office Expense Account or SOPOEA. This consists of allowances for three separate areas: the official office expense allowance; the legislative assistance allowance; and the administrative and clerical assistance allowance. The administrative and clerical assistance varies depending on how far the Senator lives from Washington, DC and the population of their state. The legislative assistance allowance is the same for all Senators. Each Senator’s mailing expenses are limited to $50,000 annually. The SOPOEA allowances are determined each year as part of the federal budget. The average amount per Senator in 2013 was just over $3.2 million.
The salary for governors is set by each individual state. In 2013 the governor with the highest salary was from New York, earning $179,000. Close behind were the governors of Illinois and Michigan who have a salary of $177,000. New Jersey and Virginia governors have an annual salary of $175,000.
On the other end of the spectrum is the governor of Maine who earns $70,000 each year. The next lowest is Arkansas with $86,890. The average salary for all governors in the nation is $133,348. Each state also sets what other benefits their governor receives.