Missouri is in the midst of a budget crunch, leading some of our viewers to ask if lawmakers are taking their own advice and cutting back, especially when it comes to collecting their daily allowance, or per diem. Viewers asked our Factfinder team to find out how much money lawmakers get per day and what they do with it. We did some investigating and found out exactly how good lawmakers are treated.
Being an elected official, it's logical that you have to travel to and stay in Jefferson City during the legislative session, and that comes at a cost. Adam Crumbliss is the chief clerk of the Missouri House of Representatives. "The constitution actually requires that we compensate them for one round trip of mileage each week," says Crumbliss.
But during an economic downturn, some wonder if Missouri politicians get too much. Let's break down the numbers. All state senators and representatives get an annual salary of about $35,000. On top of that, they get a per diem of $98.40 during session. Plus, they are reimbursed 37 cents per mile for one roundtrip a week from their home to Jefferson City.
For example, a lawmaker from Cape Girardeau, making a round trip of 440 miles, would be reimbursed $3,256 for their mileage over the 20 weeks of the session. That amount is added to the daily allowance for an average 70 session days, $6,888. That amount, $10,144, is added to their annual salary of $35,000, for a grand total of $45,144.
Mileage .37 x 440= $162.30 x 20 = $3,256
Per diem $98.40 x 70 (average) = $6,888
Mileage + per diem = $3,256 + $6,888 = $10,144
Mileage + per diem + salary = $10,144 + $35,000 = $45,144
Representative Clem Smith, from St. Louis County, says it's sufficient. I know with each state rep it would be a different story, but for me the money is enough to handle my living expenses and my dining while I'm serving in the legislature."
Steven Tilley, the Speaker of the House, believes while they haven't cut lawmakers pay, they have cut back on staffing. "If you look at the savings the House has accomplished over the past few years, then you can see clearly whenever we're making cuts we're starting with ourself," said Tilley.
In fact, the House's Chief Clerk said lawmakers should actually be paid more money. "The Salary Commission has argued that they should have more money, but legislators, especially the Speaker of the House have argued that's not something that they believe is necessary in this point in time," said Crumbliss.
Another question viewers wanted to know is whether lawmakers get their daily allowance even if they don't show up. The answer is 'no'. If a member is not here, doesn't cast a vote for that day, or doesn't have their presence noted in the journal, then they certainly don't get compensation for that per diem cost," says Crumbliss.
Lawmakers can get reimbursed for gas, hotel and meals, if they travel on official business even when not in session, the same as other state employees. But some lawmakers tell me they don't even take the money. "When I'm not in session, I do not use the state's dollars for any meals that I might be having, says Smith. So it's all personal money or money that I can raise through my campaign is what I use."
The recommended increase from the salary commission that lawmakers should get for their per diem? About $20 more a day, or another $1,400 per session (for an average 70 day session).