I’m not sure how I missed this story from earlier this summer. It’s annual survey by the media to examine how in per diem and travel reimbursements that state legislators claim each session (January – June). Freshman Assemblyman Eric Stevenson was reimbursed a whopping $26,468 in per diem and travel reimbursements. In six months, he earned an additional one-third of his $79,500 annual salary.
Assemblyman Stevenson told one newspaper that as a new Member he needed to be in Albany more often, so he could learn his job. That’s a heck of a lot of money for on-the-job training.
To be fair, the Times-Union newspaper of Albany reported that I filed $836 in Session per diem and travel reimbursements in 2009 and $3,725 in 2010.
To be fair, the Times-Union newspaper of Albany reported that I filed $836 in per diem and travel reimbursements in 2009 (June 22-July 17) and $3,725 in 2010 (June 21 – July 16).
CLARIFICATION: The reports cited examined legislative per diem payments from two different timeframes. But to put Mr. Stevenson’s per diem/travel reimbursements in a twelve month context, I’ll reveal my per diem/travel reimbursements for January to December 2009 – I claimed $11,000 in per diem and travel – and January to December 2010 – I claimed $12,000.
State lawmakers spent nearly $2.9 million for travel and expenses during this year’s legislative session, a review by Gannett’s Albany Bureau found.
The Democrat and Chronicle put together this database from records obtained by the state Comptroller’s Office that shows how much each lawmakers received in per diems and travel reimbursements from January through July. The legislative session ran from January through June 24.
During the same period last year, lawmakers spent nearly $3.4 million on travel and expenses, which includes meals and hotel stays. Last year, session carried into August because a budget deal couldn’t be reached.
Sen. James Alesi, R-Perinton, narrowly led the Senate in travel costs from January through July, billing taxpayers $20,258 for his daily per diem costs and travel.
In the Assembly, freshman Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, D-Bronx, was reimbursed the most this year, $26,468.
Per diems ease sting
Lawmakers don’t draw pay until the budget is approved, but $171 daily payments add up; except for region’s reps
By RICK KARLIN Capitol bureau
Published 01:00 a.m., Saturday, July 24, 2010
ALBANY — As the Assembly worked to finish up their work earlier this month, Bronx Democrat Jose Rivera summed up what a lot of his colleagues were thinking: “Like E.T., I want to go home! … I want to get paid!”
His impassioned speech on the floor drew shouts of approval from other lawmakers.
Rivera is home, for now. Neither he nor other members of the Assembly or Senate have been paid since April 1, when the state budget came due. They won’t see a paycheck until the 2010-11 spending plan is complete.
But the lawmakers have not gone penniless during their days at the Capitol. They have been racking up per diems, with most getting $171 for each day away from their home districts.
With the budget uncompleted and the session dragging on, the per diems are adding up.
Per diems paid to Assembly members between late June and mid-July rose from $178,095 last year to $330,926 this year, according to data from the comptroller’s office. (The per diems were between June 22 and July 17 in 2009 and June 21 to July 16 this year.)
In the Senate, the amount actually fell a bit, from $154,957 in 2009 to $147,524 this year.
Part of the differences can be chalked up to the length of the sessions. The Senate ran long last year due to the five-week coup crisis, in which members spent days gaveling and gaveling out.
This year, the Assembly is ahead, meeting for 10 days more than it did in 2009.
Another cause of the higher bill: The per diems, which are based on a federal index, rose from $160 to $171 this year. (Some members, such as Republican Stephen Hawley of Batavia, stuck to the old amount.)
Increase or not, lawmakers collect money by simply coming to Albany, even though that money is supposed to cover their food and lodging. But lawmakers can get quite a bit of free food if they want to, between the offerings available in their chambers and endless pigs-in-blankets at the fund-raisers that take place during sessions.
The assemblyman who has drawn the biggest increase in per diems so far is Bronx Democrat Michael Benjamin, who collected $836 during the 2009 period and $3,725 this year.
“I’ve been taking care of constituent business and breaking down my office,” said Benjamin, who is not running for re-election. Most of his colleagues, he noted, are home gearing up for their re-election campaigns. Being in Albany, he said, “allows me to get more work done.”
Close behind was Democrat Karim Camara of Brooklyn, who collected $529 in 2009 and $3,151 this year. Camara could not be reached for comment.
A few lawmakers pulled in higher per diems than either Benjamin or Camara this year, but had higher numbers last year as well.
Some lawmakers took fewer per-diem payments. Rochester Democrat David Gantt collected $1,747 for the period last year but nothing during the period examined this year. Gantt could not be reached late Friday.
Capitol Region lawmakers weren’t on the list: As day commuters, they don’t qualify for per diems.
Gov. Paterson has called lawmakers back this Wednesday and he’s saying he’ll keep them here until the budget is completed — which means more per diems expenses.
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