By Pat Kessler, WCCO-TV
ST. PAUL (WCCO) — One thing you can’t find on any Minnesota state website? How much your Minnesota lawmaker takes every year in “per diem” payments. (See the full lists below.)
Minnesota lawmakers earn $31,141 a year, and they haven’t had a pay hike in more than a decade.
In fact, Minnesota taxpayers kicked in $1.74 million last year for per diem, which, for some lawmakers, is a kind of “back-door” pay hike, adding as much as 40 percent to their salaries.
In addition to the state legislative salary of $31,140, lawmakers are compensated for yearround travel and lodging.
And they are entitled to additional daily expense payments for things like meals: Up to $96 a day in the Senate and $77 in the House.
Lawmakers are not required to provide receipts, and can request per diem seven days a week during the legislative session, even when they are not here.
Here’s what you NEED TO KNOW:
In 2010, the top per diem taker was former Sen. Mee Moua, D-St. Paul, who made news last year for her family’s financial problems.
Moua received $17,184 in daily expense payments, on top of her $31,141 legislative pay.
In the House, St. Paul DFL Rep. Alice Hausman received the most per diem in 2010 at $14,332.
That’s NOT THE WHOLE STORY.
Minority Republicans complained for years about excessive per diem payments. Now that they’re in control, Senate leaders imposed a 10 percent per diem cut this week, from $96 to $86.
Senate Republican Majority Leader Amy Koch said reaction has been mixed.
“It’s funny. It should be no surprise but it still seems to be,” said Koch. “We ran on smaller, leaner, more efficient government and we started with us.”
Last year, every member of the Senate took per diem. In the House, all but one: Democrat Steve Simon, of St. Louis Park, has never accepted it.
For many years we’ve asked him why. This year, like all the other years, he won’t comment.
That’s Reality Check.
WCCO-TV’s Pat Kessler Reports