$10,000 a day - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

$10,000 a day

Legislators still receive per diem during extended session

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Posted: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 12:00 am

Lawmakers in Boise are still wrangling over how to spend money on the future of Idaho's children.

Unfortunately, that means dishing out a few more dollars today.

State legislators continue to collect per diems for living expenses, as the extended session stretches on and the Senate irons out concerns over the mammoth education budget.

Lawmakers who reside more than 50 miles away from the capital collect $122 each day, to cover lodging and food. Legislative members who live closer to Boise receive $49 a day.

Of the 105 legislators hashing out bills at the capital this week, 23 House members and 15 Senate members receive the lower per diem. The other 47 in the House and 20 in the Senate pocket the higher.

So the cost of providing for legislators during an extended session is just over $10,000 a day.

"No one has said anything about the extra cost," said Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, of whether lawmakers have mulled over this detail.

The legislative session was anticipated to wrap up by the end of March. But Senate division over the proposed education budget, the Legislature's largest spending plan, has delayed adjournment.

So all legislators remain in the capital.

The official last day of the session had been slated for April 1, Barbieri said, so the extended term starts today.

"Everything is still the same. We're still given the $122 per day per diem," Barbieri said of himself and other legislators outside the capital region.

Though it comes at extra cost to taxpayers, the additional days are crucial to sort out such a huge chunk of the budget, he added.

The Senate rejected a $1.3 billion education budget last week. Members of the body are now hammering out concerns over pay-for-performance and other education funding details.

"It's important to get the education budget right," Barbieri said. "We don't want to just leave that willy nilly, without making sure the language is appropriate."

Local legislators on the Senate Education Committee couldn't be reached on Monday.

House members aren't sitting on their hands while the Senate analyzes education spending, said Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d'Alene.

"The House still had a few bills on the docket," Malek said of legislation discussed on Monday, which included the drone surveillance bill. "A lot on the agenda would've been suspended, if we'd cut (the session) off at the end of last month."

Malek, whose $122 per diem goes toward an apartment he rents for $1,200 a month during the session, also supported the extra days for sorting out education spending.

"It's a lot of money. We're talking about 75 percent of the budget," Malek said of the education budget. "I think the more consensus we can build on moving forward with education, the better."

It shouldn't drag on, though, Barbieri said.

Based on what he has heard so far, the lawmaker predicted the Legislature would wrap up the education discussion, and the session, by the end of the week.

"We're all looking forward to being out of here by Friday," Barbieri said.

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