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Spin Control

WA Lege Day 59: Brother can you spare a per diem?

OLYMPIA -- Senate Republicans and Democrats traded jabs over one of the costs of the upcoming special session, the $90 per diem legislators get to help cover the cost of food and lodging when away from home.

Republicans crafted a Senate bill Wednesday that would remove the per diem for all legislators during the special session. Their leaders castigated Democrats for being so disorganized that the Legislature needs extra innings to get the budget worked out.

“A special session this year is a costly and embarrassing prospect, and if the majority has any regard for taxpayers it should do everything in its power to bring the cost down," Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgeview said.

 Democrats countered that this is a bit of unconstitutional grandstanding. New bills can't be introduced in the last 10 days of the session without a two-thirds approval of both houses. Zarelli said Democrats have been ignoring other rules throughout the session.

Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said, legislators don't need a new law to refuse their per diem. They can do that voluntarily, like Sen. Karen Fraser, who lives in Olympia and regularly refuses hers.

"Those who feel the per diem is unnecessary simply need not collect it," Brown said.

Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane, said he'd already decided to refuse his, but it would be a hardship for some legislators from Eastern Washington so it should remain voluntary.

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The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.