OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - House lawmakers have been receiving an extra $30 a day to be in Olympia since the start of the year.
Deputy Chief Clerk Bernard Dean confirmed Thursday that the decision to increase lawmakers' daily stipend _ known as a per diem _ from $90 a day to $120 a day was made by the House Executive Committee last month, and that it took effect retroactively to Jan. 1. The bipartisan committee _ comprising five lawmakers _ meets on issues including those involving personnel.
Dean said the increased rate is still less than the $155 daily rate that state employees can claim when they travel to Thurston County. House per diem rates have been $90 since 2005, except for a two-year period, 2007-08, when they rose to $100 before dropping again.
"This is not an extraordinary increase," said House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, a Democrat from Covington who is on the committee. "This is to enable people who have to come here and live here during session, and spend a great deal of time here at a great expense to them, to offset the costs."
The Senate has not made any changes to its per diem policy, though its members are aware of the changes made in the House, said Secretary of the Senate Hunter Goodman. Excluding leadership positions, a lawmaker's salary is $42,106 a year, plus the per diem for expenses incurred for food and other costs while at the Capitol.
Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler said there will be a conversation about Senate per diems during the next Senate Facilities and Operations Committee meeting. He said that while there may be varying opinions within his caucus, he's not inclined to raise the $90-a-day stipend.
"I'm not willing to rush and spend any money right now on anything," he said. "My personal opinion is we're not out of this fiscal crisis yet, so I'm reluctant to increase any spending until we sort our way through this."
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