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Posts tagged: per diem

Senators’ per diem pay going up 33%

OLYMPIA — State senators will be able to collect an extra $30 a day for expenses during legislative sessions under a rule approved Tuesday by a committee of their members.

The Senate Facilities and Operations Committee voted 4-3 to raise the allowance for daily expenses by 33 percent, upping the per diem to $120 from the $90 it has been since 2005.

Over objections from some senators who said the question of expenses requires a more comprehensive look, the committee agreed to match the House of Representatives, which raised per diem for its members before the 2014 session started.

“I think it's inappropriate to raise the per diem for members and staff with less than 24 hours notice,” said Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville. “This is the wrong message at the wrong time, and possibly not even the right measure.”

The main expense for legislators living in Eastern Washington or other districts far from Olympia isn't food and rent, he said. It's the cost for trips to and from home. Raising the per diem “is going to reward the people who live closest to the capital,” he said.

Committee Chairman Don Benton, R-Vancouver, said the committee had discussed it enough, and cast the deciding vote to raise the expense allotment for senators, as well as a jump from $30 to $40 in the per diem for legislative assistants.

Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, said legislators haven't received a pay increase since 2008. “We don't need to get rich being in public office, but we sure as hell don't need to go broke.”

Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Olympia, made the motion to raise the per diem, even though she doesn't collect it during the session. It would be reasonable to consider other expenses in the coming months, she said, and those who object to the increase have an alternative: “Nobody has to take the full amount of per diem. You can take less.”

Raising the per diem in the House added about $176,000 in expenses for a 60-day session like the most recent one, and would add about $308,000 for the longer 105-day session. Estimates for the committee say the increase for the Senate would add $95,000 in a short session and $155,000 in a long session.

The $30 increase was the largest per diem raise since the Legislature started yearly sessions in 1979. The rate started at $40 in 1979, and was raised gradually, every few years, for most of that period through 2005. Ten years is the longest it has ever remained at the same rate.



Special Session cost: $28,626, so far

OLYMPIA – The tab for last month’s three-day special session to approve tax breaks for Boeing stands at $28,626 and counting, the most recent reports filed by legislators show.
Requests for the $90 per diem that legislators can claim have been processed, with some filling only for a day or two and some not requesting any. Some expense vouchers for travel to and from Olympia by senators might not come in until February
 Because legislators can be reimbursed for driving expenses at 56.5 cents a mile, the biggest payments went to Eastern Washington representatives and senators who travel the farthest. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to continue inside the blog.

Senate per diems for Special Session = $8,460

OLYMPIA — The three-day special session cost the state $8,460 in per diem expenses for members of the state Senate.

That's the tally released today from the Secretary of the Senate's office, from per diem requests filed by senators from last week's Thursday-through-Saturday session.

Legislators are allowed $90 per day to cover expenses while they are in Olympia for a special session. Some who didn't arrive until Friday only claimed $180, and a couple who only showed up for the final day, when the two Boeing bills came to the floor for votes, only requested $90. Nine senators didn't put in for any per diem, even though they were there for the full three days and did some of the heavy lifting, like Sen. Andy Hill, the R-Redmond, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Among the Spokane-area delegation, Republicans Mike Baumgartner, Mike Padden and Mark Schoesler and Democrat Andy Billig put in for the full $270, while Republican John Smith requested $180.

Per diem expenses for the House, which has a slightly different calendar for reporting expenses, are expected to be available next week.


WA Lege SpecSess: Gregoire frustrated at slow pace

OLYMPIA – As the Legislature crawled through its fourth day of a special session without a solution to its budget problems, Gov. Chris Gregoire was among those expressing frustration with the progress, or apparent lack of it.

The session could be done by Sunday, which would be the absolute last day Gregoire said she wanted them to spend in this legislative overtime.

“I thought I was giving them a couple days extra time, just in case,” she said at a press conference called to tout the state’s growth in environmentally friendly or green jobs. “To talk about going another week, to me, is inexcusable.”

To read the rest of this story, or to see the list of legislators not taking a per diem during the special session,  go inside the blog.

WA Lege SpecSess: More saying no to per diem

OLYMPIA — A growing number of legislators say they will refuse the $90 per day they can receive for food and lodging during all or part of the special session.

Twenty-one senators, out of the total of 49, have notified the secretary of the Senate they won’t be accepting their per diem. In the House of Representatives, 26 members have said they’ll turn it down for the full session and 23 are refusing it for one or more days.

That lowers the daily cost of the special session from $18,300 to at least $14,000. Mondays are going to be the cheapest day, about $12,700, because so many reps are refusing the per diem that day.

To be fair to legislators, their per diem is less than what state workers travelling to Olympia would receive to stay there. The state employees’ per diem is base on a federal formula that rates different areas based on cost of living, and amounts to $150 per day.

(That’s about the same a state worker from Olympia would get for a trip to Spokane. But the rest of the East Side is a better deal, with a maximum per day of $116.)

Full list for the two chambers is inside the blog. Click here to see it. 

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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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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