Local News

State Representative Saves Bucks by Living in RV

Posted February 6, 2007 7:20 p.m. EST
Updated February 7, 2007 8:49 a.m. EST

— While lawmakers are hard at work in downtown Raleigh, many move to the area for the session. But one legislator stands out for his temporary home on wheels.

Rep. Charles Thomas, R-Buncombe, is new in the State Legislature this term. A 40-foot RV has become his house while he serves in the House.

Thomas said the motor home is better than renting a room or buying a house during the session.

“It's certainly a very efficient cost option, shall we say,” he said.

For Thomas, the RV has sort of become a symbol of the North Carolina custom of paying lawmakers little.

“We don't have any bus drivers or factory workers in the General Assembly,” he said. “Can the average citizen really fun for office and serve?”

In North Carolina, lawmakers are paid about $13,000 a year, plus $104 a day when they're in session. They're also reimbursed for travel but can only claim one trip a week, when they get 29 cents a mile. The federal rate is 48.5 cents a mile.

In the North Carolina House of Representatives, half the members are attorneys, businesses owners and executives, or they're retired. In the Senate, half of its members are attorneys or retirees.

“I think the real question is if you change the compensation structure, would it really make a difference from the standpoint of encouraging other folks to run? And I don't know the answer to that,” Thomas said.

But Thomas said that it's an issue worth talking about. But he said he's not trying to make a statement with his mobile home. He said it's not only cost-effective and convenient, but it’s a place his kids love too.

In Virginia, state Senators make $360 a year more than Representatives. In South Carolina, lawmakers earn just over $10,000 a year. Lawmakers in both states also receive daily stipends for housing and meals.