MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota state lawmakers last week got their second pay raise in two years.
But it did not stop them from taking more than a million dollars in under-the-radar daily expense payments during the 2019 legislative session.
With very little public attention, lawmaker pay went up $1,500 pay on July 1, from $45,000 to $46,500.
And out of public view, they are making thousands of dollars more — from daily expense payments called per diem.
Members of the Minnesota House get $66 a day. Senators get $86.
No receipts. No questions asked. Seven days a week during session. Even on days they not present at the Capitol.
That’s on top of reimbursements lawmakers already get for mileage, housing and other expenses.
Minnesota lawmakers set their own per diem, but they no longer vote on their own salaries. Those are set by an independent Salary Council, which was so concerned about not having a standard business practice for per diems, it recommends getting rid of it.
Here is what the council said in a March 2019 report:
Legislative Salary Council members strongly believe that for most legislators, per diems are a non-transparent form of additional salary. Many Council members have indicated they would support an increase in salary if per diem were eliminated. As a result, the Council continues to encourage the Minnesota Senate and the House of Representatives to consider eliminating per diems and replacing them with reimbursement for actual expenses. The Council is sympathetic to the challenges of the paperwork involved, but most Council members, with experience in both the public and private sectors, recognize this as a standard business practice.
2019 MN Leg Per Diem:
- Total: $1,779,381
- Average: $8,853
- Average Salary: $55,353
Per diem records compiled by Reality Check show Minnesota lawmakers received a total of $1,779,381 in per diem payments — just during the session.
That’s an average of $8,853 in extra cash per lawmaker — boosting their average part-time salaries to at least $55,353.
And Minnesota lawmaker pay is now on the higher end of Midwest states. Here’s a sampling:
- Wisconsin: $50,950
- Minnesota: $46,500
- Iowa: $25,000
- South Dakota: $6,000
- North Dakota: $177 per day
Here is what you need to know. Unlike almost every other state document, you cannot go online and find how much your local lawmaker got in per diem and expenses. That’s why we’re posting it here, in full:
Here are some of the sources that we used for this Reality Check: