No state budget? No per diem payments

A bill that would hit Minnesota lawmakers in their pocketbooks for failing to finish the state budget on time has advanced through a Senate committee and is now staged for a future floor vote.

The bill that cleared the State Government Finance Committee on Thursday would bar legislators from collecting per diem payments during a special session if major tax and spending bills are incomplete.

Sen. Scott Jensen, R-Chaska, argued lawmakers shouldn't be rewarded financially for going into overtime.

"When we don't get our work done and we end up in special session, I don't think it's unreasonable for us to say we'll pay for our own breakfast, lunch and dinner," he said.

The daily allowance for senators is $86 during session and House members can take up to $66. Not all lawmakers accept per diem, and some voluntarily refuse it during special sessions already.

Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, said it's a matter of personal conscience.

"I do believe it is a personal choice. We don't have to take per diem at all anytime. I don't think we need this kind of oversight," Rest said, adding that people can and are held accountable at election time. "Some folks are not independently wealthy. If they have to take a day off of work to come down for a single day of their non-legislative work, it can provide somewhat of a hardship."

The bill, which passed on a voice vote, wouldn't apply to mileage and lodging expense allowances.

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