Minnesota House members are getting a $20 bump in daily expense allowances when the Legislature is on duty.
The per diem boost brings House members in line with the $86 per day that senators receive. It was approved on a party-line vote this week by a House rules panel. The increase is retroactive to the beginning of the year.
Democratic leaders say the adjustment had been under consideration for months and the money for it was included in the recently passed budget.
House Majority Leader Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis, said the legislative allowances should be parallel.
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“This is intended to match the Senate per diem,” Long said. “I certainly don’t believe the Senate is worth $20 more per day for the work they do on behalf of our state.”
But Rep. Kristin Robbins, R-Maple Grove, voiced concern over the timing and retroactivity of it.
“I find it concerning we’re raising per diem while we’re out of session,” she said during Wednesday’s hearing. “The public is not paying attention.”
Lawmakers get the payment for meals and incidentals but don’t have to submit receipts to account for actual costs. They can claim per diem for each day the Legislature is in session or when they’re called in for hearings during other times of the year.
Because it is closely connected to the length of sessions, House officials said the uptick comes at a cost of $270,000 to $350,000 per year.
Allocations for lodging for greater Minnesota lawmakers are handled separately.
The expense allowance increase isn’t the only compensation change for legislators. Lawmakers are also due for a salary boost approved earlier by an independent commission. Legislators will earn $51,750 per year starting July 1, with legislative leaders receiving slightly more.