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At State Capitol, Lawmakers' Per Diem Expenses Add Up

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- Members of the Minnesota House and Senate racked up almost $2 million dollars in extra pay last year -- over and above their legislative salaries.

It came in the form of daily expense payments called "per diem", totalling $1,925,621 in public funds during 2015.

Minnesota lawmakers haven't had a pay hike since 1999 -- they haven't voted to give themselves a raise because of the political controversy it generates. But per diem payments can significantly boost a lawmaker's salary -- as much as 50 percent.

Minnesota's part-time lawmakers get paid $31,141 a year, plus expenses -- up to $86 a day in the Senate, and $66 in the House. Lawmakers are entitled to per diem seven days a week during the legislative session, even when they're not at the Capitol.

Minnesota House members got got an average of $8,496 in extra pay, per legislator last year. In the Senate, it was $11,746 extra. That's with no receipts, and no questions asked.

In the Senate, two Twin Cities lawmakers received the most per diem: Republican Minority Leader David Hann ($16,426), and Minneapolis Democrat Jeff Hayden ($16,082).

In the House, it's Republican Speaker Kurt Daudt ($13,398), and St. Paul Democrat Alice Hausman ($10,494).

The annual per diem payments also count toward a lawmaker's pension, but that's not the only extra compensation they're getting.

On top of salary and per diem there is:

  • Separate money for travelling inside their districts.
  • Mileage to and from the Capitol.
  • And for outstate lawmakers: $1500 a month for housing-- all year long-- even though the legislature only meets a few months every year.

Minnesota lawmaker $31,141 salaries and up to $86 per diem are roughly in the middle of salaries for lawmakers in the Upper Midwest.

Here's a look at other states:

  • Iowa $25,000 / $159 per diem
  • North Dakota $0 / $167 per diem
  • South Dakota $6,000 / $129 per diem
  • Wisconsin $50,090 / $88 - $138 per diem

Because of the controversy surrounding pay hikes, Minnesota voters may ultimately decide what to do. Lawmakers have approved a Constitutional Amendment to place on the 2016 election ballot which would create an independent pay commission which would have the authority to set pay hikes for public officials.

Read the full reports:
House | Senate

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