Committee wants to raise lawmaker reimbursements for mileage, travel

Posted May 9, 2016

This is the sign in front of the North Carolina legislative building.

— Taxpayers would pay more to reimburse lawmakers for the time they spend traveling for legislative business and the time they spend in Raleigh under a proposal approved for introduction by the General Assembly's Program Evaluation Committee.

Monday's vote clears the way for Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, to introduce a bill that would more than double the amount per mile – from 26 cents to 54 cents – lawmakers are paid to travel from their home districts to Raleigh, as well as for authorized travel on legislative business.

The daily lump-sum payment that covers food and lodging costs, known as a per diem, would also rise, from $104 per day to $163 per day, under Hartsell's proposal.

"These reimbursements are supposed to be tied to the actual costs of serving," Hartsell said Monday.

But those cost allowances were last reset in 1994, when gas and lodging costs were cheaper. The result is that lawmakers take a financial hit to serve.

Increasing those reimbursements would cost the state about $1.4 million a year, according to a draft bill Hartsell circulated to the committee.

Raising the amount of money lawmakers receive is always a touchy subject. Proposals to raise lawmaker's base pay – $13,591 a year – have been met with resistance in the past and have been used in political campaigns to tar their authors. Hartsell says his effort should be less controversial.

"We're talking about how much money it truly costs to serve," he said.

Between what is now a $104 per daily allowance, a monthly expense allotment and mileage reimbursements, lawmakers on average take home somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 in a typical year, and more than half of that is expenses.

Whatever lawmakers do, Hartsell said that the legislature wouldn't raise its reimbursement rates for the current session. Rather, he said, if legislators do take up his bill, they would likely delay its implementation until next summer.

During Monday's committee hearing, Sen. Stan Bingham, R-Davidson, asked why the various reimbursement rates couldn't be allowed to float along with federal standards. Doing so, he said, would allow future legislatures to avoid complicating the political thicket that comes along with increasing their reimbursements.

Hartsell said the state constitution does not allow the state to take action by reference to actions by a government outside of the state.

However the bill is structured, it may not go anywhere this year. House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said he would want to see an independent commission look over the matter before the General Assembly acts.

"I don't think that's something we would pass this session," Moore said.


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  • Wayne Rossignol May 11, 2016
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    Mr. Flecher:

    How can you possibly fathom or even think about giving yourselves a raise for expenses? As a retired educator, I now have the pleasure of subbing in Wake County. Do you know what I am paid each day?? The figure is $104 and you want $163 for expenses? I am not paid for food or gas traveling to the schools I work. Also, do you know what subs received for a raise this year? Six dollars....we went from $98 to $104 WOW...thank you!. Do you know how much of a cost of living subs received this year? NIL, NOTHING, NONE.

    NC teachers rank 47th in nation for the lowest paid teachers. Yet, you have the gall to want more expense money. SHAME SHAME SHAME on YOU and your cronies. You are an embarrassment to the state of NC and an even bigger embarrassment to humanity. You are the epitome of greed. If I had my way I would eliminate your "expense" account and reduce you salary, especially in light of all the millions of dollars you and your fellow Republicans have waste

  • Wayne Rossignol May 10, 2016
    user avatar

    Absolutely NOT. They've already wasted millions on their agendas and are overpaid! JUST LIKE THE TEACHERS...YEAH RIGHT!!! TOTAL IMBECILES

  • Lance Boyle May 10, 2016
    user avatar

    They should drive more conservative vehicles. Live their mantra

  • Susan Eaton May 9, 2016
    user avatar

    Those poor, poor legislators who chose to serve knowing the salary, benefits, etc going in. But never mind increasing the per diem reimbursement for actual state employees who are performing their jobs around the state. They can make due with ever declining salaries, benefits, AND per diems due to the legislature only keeping their own and their favorites per diems, salaries, and benefits on the increase. And of course, socking away our tax payer dollars in their "rainy day" fund. Which will probably get spent on legal costs surrounding HB2.