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Eye On Boise

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When the Citizens Committee on Legislative Compensation made its recommendation in June for a 5 percent increase in Idaho legislative pay, it was the second two-year session in a row the panel had called for an increase. Before that, there were both no-increase recommendations and cutbacks in other compensation for two sessions in a row. In 2005, the Legislature eliminated per-diem payments for interim committee meetings. This year's recommendation, however, includes some increases in legislative expense reimbursements, including mileage, that lawmakers receive in addition to their annual salaries.

In addition to calling for a 5 percent hike in the legislative annual salary to $16,921, the committee this year called for increasing the per diem for legislators from outside the area by $12, from $122 to $134 per legislative day; removing a $25 per day cap on vouchered mileage expenses for legislators who don't maintain a second residence within 50 miles of the Statehouse; increasing the unvouchered constituent service allowance by $300, from $2,200 to $2,500 per year; and permitting a vouchered mileage expense reimbursement to a maximum of $1,000 per year for constituent-related travel within a district if travel is pre-approved, occurs while the Legislature is out of session and is greater than 50 miles from the legislator’s home. The committee opted against any increase in the $49 daily session allowance paid to legislators who don't maintain a second residence within 50 miles of the Statehouse. It also declined to increase the extra salary payment of $4,000 per year for the House speaker and Senate president pro-tem.

That recommendation actually took effect Dec. 1, but lawmakers can reverse it when they meet in January. Prior to Dec. 1, Idaho legislators got $49 per session day for expenses plus up to $25 for mileage if they live within 50 miles of the Statehouse, or $122 per session day if they live farther away plus reimbursement for the actual expense of one round trip home each weekend. They also received a $2,200 per year unvouchered constituent service allowance, in addition to their salary.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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