Republicans object to legislative per diem increase
Members of the Minnesota House of Representatives will now be eligible for a 30% increase in per diem for daily expenses after approval from the House Rules and Administration Committee this week. The plan will increase per diem House members can claim every day the legislature is in session for meals and other incidental expenses from $66 to $86 — the same as Minnesota senators can already claim.
“I find it concerning that we’re raising per diem once we’re out of session, the public’s not paying attention,” Rep. Kristin Robbins (R-Maple Grove) said during a remote hearing of the committee on Wednesday. “It’s retroactive. I don’t know why this wasn’t done earlier in the session, so I’d like you to address that please.”
House Majority Leader Jamie Long did address that by saying he had mentioned it in a hearing earlier in the session and they had to wait for the plan to be funded in the state government finance bill before they could approve the higher per diem.
“We had to wait until the state government finance bill passed in order for us to raise this, but there was a question that came up in one of our previous rules meetings on member salary very early in session and I indicated our intent to match the Senate on their per diem,” Long said.
Other Republicans wondered about the motivation for doing this just after a session when some think Democrats didn’t give enough of the surplus back to taxpayers.
“Why do we feel the need that we need to increase it from $66 to $86 for the per diem?” asked Rep, Marion O’Neill (R-Maple Lake). “What is it? Do we have members say that this doesn’t cover expenses? Or what’s happening? Why exactly are we increasing this? I hope there’s a better answer than just we want to match the Senate. That’s not really a good answer.”
Long was quick to answer.
“I think it is a good answer to say we want to match the Senate,” he responded. “I do believe that we are not worth less than the Senate. The Senate in the past has outstripped us in terms of both member compensation and staff compensation and that’s something we’re looking to end.”
New House per diem costs are expected to cost about $270,000 to $350,000 per legislative session, depending on the length of a session.
Per diem isn’t the only thing on the rise. On July 1, all 201 state lawmakers will get a 7.25% pay raise to $51,750. Since 2017 legislative salaries have been set by the independent Legislative Salary Council so lawmakers don’t have to vote on their own salaries.