Lawmakers collected nearly $200,000 in per diem over the course of two special sessions.
According to a preliminary tally by the Legislature’s accounting office, every lawmaker took at least one day’s per diem during the first special session, which began in Juneau and ended in Anchorage. Almost half took per diem during the Anchorage special session that followed. Twenty-four members also took per diem while the Legislature was in recess for two weeks, and not holding floor sessions.
Per diem is meant to cover food and lodging expenses, and it is federally set. It was paid at a rate of $233 per day while the Legislature was holding its special session in Juneau. It jumped to $295 for the second session in Anchorage, because of the start of tourist season and the move to a more expensive location.
While any legislator could apply for the allowance, those who did not live within driving distance of the Anchorage were more likely to take it. Sen. Donny Olson, a Golovin Democrat who serves on the finance committee, was the top collector. He filed for 44 days, amounting to a payment of $11,439. Sen. Peter Micchiche, a Soldotna Republican, was the one exception to this — declining per diem during the Anchorage session, despite living 150 miles away.
There was less consistency with Anchorage and Mat-Su members.
Some members of leadership took per diem, even though they live within commuting distance of the LIO. House Finance Co-Chair Mark Neuman, lives one hour away in Big Lake, and collected $8,393 over the two special sessions. Senate Rules Chair Charlie Huggins, a Wasilla Republican, received $6,329, with most of his per diem collected while in Anchorage. But other members of leadership who live in the area did not. Neither Senate President Kevin Meyer nor House Rules Chair Craig Johnson — both Anchorage Republicans — applied for the funds during the second session.
There were even some rank-and-file members who collected per diem while the Legislature was meeting in their area. Sen. Lesil McGuire collected $7,347 during the special sessions, and Sen. Cathy Giessel received $5,352. Neither of the two Anchorage Republicans holds a leadership position or serves on Finance, the only committee to meet regularly during the special session.
However, the majority of Anchorage and Mat-Su legislators declined per diem during the second special session. None of the Anchorage Democrats in the House or the Senate applied for per diem. House Republicans also largely abstained, with Neuman being the exception.
At nearly $4,000 per member, the Senate’s Republican majority caucus collected the most per diem on average. At the low end of the spectrum is the House’s Democratic minority, with an average payout of $2,000 per member.
According to Legislative Affairs, these numbers could be revised upwards. The agency is still receiving per diem claims. As of Thursday, the total cost of the two special sessions, which were called to address the budget deficit, exceeded $600,000.
To find a more detailed breakdown of per diem costs, click here.
|Legislator||Special Session Per Diem|
|COGHILL, JR., JOHN||$8,188.00|
|CHENAULT, MIKE (CHARLES)||$5,745.00|
|COLVER, JIM (JAMES)||$604.00|