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.