- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2015

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) - The price of running the Legislature for an extra month included more than $180,000 in daily expense payments to lawmakers.

Those $120-a-day per diem payments and mileage reimbursements will continue to add up as lawmakers continue to negotiate a state budget in a second special session. The Daily Herald newspaper of Everett reported (http://is.gd/j6DMDk ).

Friday marked the eighth day of a second extra session for the 147 lawmakers. The final total for those expenses could double before lawmakers pass a two-year spending plan and adjourn for the year.

Legislators earn $42,106 a year and are entitled to receive up to $120 more for each day in a regular or special legislative session to cover expenses such as food and lodging in Olympia. A lawmaker putting in for $120 for each of the regular session’s 103 days, for example, was reimbursed $12,360.

Under state law, per diem can be claimed for days during which lawmakers are “engaged in legislative business,” which can be interpreted widely to cover everything from a committee hearing to a town hall. Many lawmakers rent an apartment during the regular session and use per diem to cover their bills.

The Senate paid $56,400 in per diem for the special session that ran from April 29 through May 28. It also reimbursed lawmakers a total of $3,431 for mileage, according to information compiled by the secretary of the Senate.

The tab for the House, which has twice as many members, was $124,129, according to the chief clerk. Of that amount, $91,176 was in per diem and the rest for mileage.

Though the Legislature didn’t accomplish much in the first special session this year, Republican Sen. Kirk Pearson of Monroe kept busy. He held three meetings of the Natural Resources and Parks Committee, which he chairs, and took part in numerous community events.

Pearson wound up receiving $3,000 in per diem, covering 25 of the session’s 30 days, including Memorial Day, when no formal lawmaking was taking place at the Capitol. Pearson, who did not request mileage, received the most of any state lawmaker serving Snohomish County.

“Though I haven’t been in Olympia every day, I have been very busy,” Pearson said, citing his participation in Memorial Day events as an example. “I don’t think I’ve done anything illegal. I have just been an active senator.”

Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, received $1,200 for 10 days.

“I get paid when I come down,” she said. “I usually go down for three days a week for the committees and meetings. I will sleep in my office two nights.”

During the special sessions, most members request per diem only for those days they travel to Olympia, but a handful have sought payments for every day, including weekends.

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Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldnet.com

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