By Bob Katzen
Updated: 02/22/2016 09:26:09 AM EST
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. Beacon Hill Roll Call has obtained the 2015 official list from the state treasurer’s office of the “per diem” travel, meals and lodging reimbursements collected by the Legislature’s 157 state representatives from Jan. 1, 2015, through Dec. 31, 2015. The list reveals that representatives collected a total of $239,732. Combined with the $63,590 that the state’s 38 senators collected as reported in a recent Beacon Hill Roll Call, the grand total for both branches is $303,322.
Under state law, per diems are paid by the state to representatives “for each day of travel from his place of residence to the Statehouse and return therefrom, while in the performance of his official duties, upon certification to the state treasurer that he was present at the Statehouse.” These reimbursements are given to representatives above and beyond their regular salaries.
The amount of the per diem varies and is based on the city or town in which a representative resides and its distance from the Statehouse. The Legislature in 2000 approved a law doubling these per diems to the current amounts. The payments range from $10 per day for legislators who reside in the Greater Boston area to $90 per day for some Western Massachusetts lawmakers and $100 per day for those in Nantucket. Representatives who are from areas that are a long distance from Boston’s Statehouse most often collect the highest total of annual per diems.
Some supporters of the per diems say the system is fair and note the rising costs of travel, food and lodging.
They argue many legislators spend a lot of money on travel to the Statehouse and some spend the night in Boston following late sessions. Others say that some legislators accept the per diem but use all of the revenue they receive to support local nonprofit causes. They say that not taking the per diem would leave that money in the state’s General Fund to be spent on who knows what.Some opponents argue most private-sector and state workers are not paid additional money for commuting. They say the very idea of paying any per diem is outrageous when thousands of workers have lost their jobs and homes, and funding for important programs has been cut. Others say the per diem is especially inappropriate given the 3-cent-per-gallon hike in the state’s gas tax that the Legislature approved in July 2013.
The 2015 statistics indicate that nearly one-half (78) of the state’s 157 representatives have received reimbursements ranging from $18 to $8,730, while a little more than one-half (79) have so far chosen not to apply for any money. State law does not establish a deadline that representatives must meet in order to collect the per diems.
The representative who received the most per-diem money in 2015 is William “Smitty” Pignatelli (D-Lenox) who received $8,730.
LOCAL REPRESENTATIVES’ PER DIEMS FOR 2015
The dollar figure next to the representative’s name represents the total amount of per diem money the state paid him or her in 2015. The number in parentheses represents the number of days the representative certified he or she was at the Statehouse during that same period. Representatives who have not requested any per diems have “0 days” listed. That is not meant to imply that these representatives didn’t attend any sessions but rather that they chose not to request any per diems.
Rep. James Arciero, $4,940 (190 days); Rep. Cory Atkins, $0 (0 days); Rep. Jennifer Benson, $0 (0 days); Rep. Colleen Garry, $1,300 (50 days); Rep. Thomas Golden, $0 (0 days); Rep. Kenneth Gordon, $0 (0 days); Rep. Sheila Harrington, $0 (0 days); Rep. Marc Lombardo, $0 (0 days); Rep. James Lyons, $0 (0 days); Rep. James Miceli, $774 (43 days); Rep. Rady Mom, $0 (0 days); Rep. David Nangle $4,004 (154 days); Rep. Jennifer Benson $0 (0 days); Former Rep. Stephen DiNatale $1,404 (39 days); Rep. Kimberly Ferguson $3,744 (104 days); Rep. Sheila Harrington $0 (0 days); Rep. Harold Naughton $0 (0 days); Rep. Dennis Rosa $1,008 (28 days); Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik $0 (0 days).