Per Diems, a Bipartisan Money Grab

While people struggle to find work in a difficult economy and many more wonder how to feed their families on a daily basis, today’s Herald has yet another story on the continued money grab by MA politicians in the form of per diems showing just how out of touch Beacon Hill is with the hard working people of MA.…

The story points out that the 30 departing State Representatives will take home more than $91K this year in per diems even though formal sessions ended on July 31 to give the Reps more time to run for re-election while being paid by us.

Quotes abound in the short story, but my personal favorite is from Democratic State Rep Denis Guyer:

“I’ll probably put in for a couple more,” Guyer said. “I’ll be in there to clean up my office next week.”

I am sure that the taxpayers of MA are thrilled to be paying for Rep. Guyer to be coming into Boston to clean up his office.

While their is not much that unifies Democratic and Republican Reps on Beacon Hill, it seems as though per diems is one area where some find common ground.  Unfortunately, its common ground at the expense of the MA taxpayers.

This comment from retiring State Rep Robert Hargraves:

“There will be a hiatus until I collect my retirement. It takes a little bit of the edge off for the next few weeks,” said state Rep. Robert S. Hargraves (R-Groton), who’s pocketed $4,342 in taxpayer-funded travel reimbursements this year on top of his $61,440 salary.

Shame on you Bob for forgetting about the taxpayers of MA at this time of year.

This story raises two areas that the MA House can address early in its next session:

1) Grant audit powers over the state legislature to the State Auditor.  Let’s have someone take a look and see if all these per diems are being properly collected in addition to how all the other Legislative money is spent.

2) Eliminate per diems.  They are an insult to the hard working people of MA who do no get paid to commute yet are asked to pay for their legislators to commute into work, even to clean out their desk.

Once again, we are reminded that legislators all too often live in a different world from the rest of us.

About ConsEph

  •    That democrats feel entitlements to per diems. But they feel Republicans are not deserving of this little perk. Democrats in my area car pool and BOTH claim per diem for the day.

      1. Love to see it.

      2. I do feel that legislators from the west should be compensated for their longer travel and expense to serve their constituents.

  • Most people who travel for work in the private sector receive a daily per diem to cover travel expenses (meals, telephone, etc. while out of town.  In order to be reimbursed they are required to submit invoices and details of the expenditures that are subject to review before being reimbursed.

    This differs dramatically from the approach taken in some government agencies where they reimburse the full amount of the per diem without requesting a scintilla of support.  This allows those working and traveling to be budget shoppers as anything they spend under the daily per diem is additional “income” to them.

    This is a culture that seems pervasive in government.  I am sure not all, but far too much.  Maybe its because it not their money that they are spending.  Maybe its the way people are trained.  Who really knows, but it is time to start the government on a budget with real controls and real auditing.  In MA there is no better place to start than the Legislature.

  • The per-diems bother me. I don’t get paid to drive to work from Scituate each day. My Rep, Garret Bradley (D-Hingham), takes a per diem. So does my Senator, Bob Hedlund (R-Weymouth). But the rest of my town is represented by Jim Cantwell (D-Marshfield), who doesn’t take a per diem but lives farther from the state house than the first two. Go next door to Pembroke, and Rep. Dan Webster (R-Pembroke) takes a per diem.

    The best is if you look at the records and find a per-diem being taken on a day the legislator missed the votes… These really do need to be audited!!

    I remember looking at the Commonwealth Magazine disclosures (I can’t get the site to load for some reason, will follow up with a link if I can find it) and about 75% (I think) of the Democrats and 100% of the Republicans on Beacon Hill took per diems home in 2008.

    But hey, at least they can somehow avoid paying federal income taxes if they take the per diem according to this Patriot Ledger article.

  • These per diems are unwarranted perks for legislators at taxpayer expense and I hope to put an end to them in the upcoming session.  I am filing a bill to eliminate all per diem allowances.

    As you point out, this is a bipartisan problem and I realize this will be a tough sell on both sides.  I am under no delusion that this will be easy but I am encouraged thst several of my incoming colleagues have also spoken in opposition to these types of money-grabs by elected officials.

    I noted someone commented about legislators who have to travel long distances warranting some type of compensation.  I would point out that under federal law any legislator travelling 50 miles or more can claim deductions that effectively make their entire salary tax exempt. I think this is compensation enough.

    Steven Levy

    Representative Elect

    4th Middlesex