Get Real

Len Lazarick reported yesterday about the work of the General Assembly Compensation Commission, which determines whether or not the members of the General Assembly are underpaid when they make $43,000 a year for part time work. But it seems like some of the findings of the commission are not going to put members of the General Assembly (presumably of both parties) in a good light:

The 51 pages of data legislative staff produced for the commission contained a number of telling statistics. For instance, 86 percent of the 188 lawmakers claim their full $42 daily meal per diem during the 90-day session without submitting receipts, though some senators and delegates attend receptions and committee dinners hosted by others….

…Eighty percent of legislators –156 lawmakers — are reimbursed for lodging for all 90 days the legislature is in session, most at the maximum rate of $126 a day, even though many live within commuting distance. Some of the hotels throw in free breakfast, Sprague noted.

Emphasis mine. And why not give these folks higher compensation during a recession, the lot of them are doing such a bang-up job…

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This is an issue that we have touched on before, with a number of legislators who live right here in Anne Arundel County staying the night in Annapolis and claiming their full $126 per diem rate. As I said nearly two years ago:

There is virtually NO good reason (except for maybe issues concerning the weather) for an Anne Arundel County legislator to seek state reimbursement for hotel rooms in Annapolis. It’s completely insulting as a taxpayer to see legislators, regardless of political affiliation, live the high life at the Loews or the Marriott in Annapolis while the rest of us mere mortals are subjected to higher taxes and higher costs of living. Sure, I don’t have as much of a problem allowing for reimbursable expenses for legislators from the Eastern Shore, or Western Maryland, or even Montgomery County. But when you work in the county you live in, it’s just shows embarrassingly poor judgment.

And it still stand true. Frankly, any legislator who lives within a reasonable commuting distance from Annapolis who decides to stay in Annapolis and claim their full per diem is unfit for office. Period.

In the meantime, somebody also needs to get the memo to Senate President Mike Miller that it’s a tacky to justify these handouts to General Assembly members in the middle of a recess

Miller defended the per diems and lodging arrangements.

“I don’t think people abuse” the meal or lodging per diem, Miller said. “These are elected officials. Nobody is going to be chintzy about meals.

“I get invitations to four or five receptions a night, and I rarely eat or consume anything at these events,” Miller said. “Obviously you can’t drink or you’d be an alcoholic.”

“You’re not there to eat, you’re there to meet and greet, and you can’t talk with your mouth full,” Miller said.

He pointed out that some senators and delegates don’t go to any receptions on principle, and other members will go out to eat after they’ve attended a reception.

Well, let’s throw a pity party for General Assembly members. It must be tough getting $43,000 a year to work a part-time job (that admittedly does require a lot of extra attention) while generally holding down another full-time job.

There are thousands of Marylanders right now who are unemployed (a lot of them thanks to the General Assembly’s complicity in Martin O’Malley’s reckless spending) who would be absolutely delighted to be making $43,000 a year for a full-time job, much less a part-time one. To then defend the legislators use of per diem, with the added insult that implies General Assembly members are too good to eat like the rest of us, is an insult to all of the middle and working class taxpayers who are suffering thanks to the actions of Miller and the rest of the Democrats in the General Assembly.

I hope that the compensation commission recommends no changes to the salary or expense rates for General Assembly members. Regulations should be adopted by the General Assembly regarding who is and is no eligible to receive per diem lodging payments (banning legislators within a 50-mile radius of Annapolis from receiving lodging reimbursements would be a good start). And the commission should continue to hold the line on expenses until legislators shape up, provide receipts, and stop abusing the system. They are not send to Annapolis to have a taxpayer funded vacation; they are citizen legislators who are (theoretically) there to serve the interests of the state, not to be reimbursed for expenses that are clearly unnecessary or nonexistent.


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