February 23, 2017
Sen. Scott Fitzgerald
The GOP-controlled state Senate has approved a 31 percent hike in their per diems, allowing them to claim up to $115 a day for expenses when they are in Madison.
Previously, most state senators could claim up to $88 a day, and senators who live in Dane County could claim up to $44 on work days in Madison. The expense allowance is in addition to their $50,950 annual salary.
The expense allowance is intended to cover travel, lodging and meals. Senators may claim the entire allowable amount without submitting spending receipts, and keep any difference between their actual expenses and the reimbursement claim. Also, legislators can take the per diem even if they just work a couple of minutes on the day of their claim. Last year, the 33-member Senate as whole claimed nearly $201,000 in per diems, led by GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, of Juneau, at about $14,300.
The per diem increase, which is not voted on by the entire Senate like legislative policy and spending bills, was approved 4-1 on a ballot vote Monday with no public meeting by the five-member Senate Organization Committee. The committee is comprised of three Republican and two Democratic Senate leaders.
Voting in favor of the per diem increase were Fitzgerald, Assistant GOP Minority Leader Leah Vukmir, of Brookfield, GOP Senate President Roger Roth, of Appleton, and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, of La Crosse.
Assistant Democratic Minority Leader Janet Bewley, of Ashland, voted against the increase.
Two years ago, the Assembly increased its per diems, which also used to be $88 a day. Now, Assembly representatives may claim up to $69 for a single day in Madison, and up to $138 when they stay overnight. Assembly members may claim per diems for up to 153 days in a year. Last year, Assembly representatives claimed a total of about $484,500 in expenses, led by Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca, of Kenosha, who claimed about $9,600.
Both the Assembly and Senate, which have been controlled by Republicans since 2010, have routinely opposed proposals to increase the minimum wage and supported plans to tighten requirements for food stamps and other state aid for the poor.