House committee freezes legislators' reimbursements

Thursday, February 18, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — The House Administration and Accounts Committee unanimously voted Wednesday to freeze per diem increases for Missouri legislators as an attempt to aid the state's ailing budget.

The committee heard testimony on two similar bills that would freeze legislators' daily expense reimbursements at September 2009 rates - $87.20 per day. Currently, legislators are reimbursed $103.20 for each day spent at the capitol, 80 percent of the federal per diem established by the Internal Revenue Service for Jefferson City.

"I think we're going to show the people of the state of Missouri that we're cutting back," Rep. Kenny Jones, R-Clarksburg, said during the hearing.

This daily decrease of $16 would save the House $182,560 and the Senate $44,064, for a total saving of $226,624, according to state legislative staff.

Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger, R-Lake St. Louis, said he supports the freeze. "The per diem is not going to make or break anybody," he said.

The bills come in the wake of a state budget that's $800 million below the General Assembly's original projection. Lawmakers fear an even more dire budget for fiscal year 2012, once federal stabilization funds expire.

Last month Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, sponsored a similar bill in the Senate reducing reimbursement rates to September 2009 levels.

The hearing came the same day as Senate discussion on provisions that would make legislators wait two years before taking lobbying or state department positions.

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