A leading Democrat on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill says legislators should reexamine laws that offer him and his peers a daily allowance each day they are at the Capitol, but it’s not a high priority.
“I think there may be a political will to possibly roll some of that per diem into maybe an increased salary and clear out some of the different little ways you can receive compensation up here,” said Rep. Mike Turner, the House Democratic caucus chairman.
Last month, a TNReport analysis found the state had spent more than a half-million dollars on per diems for lawmakers who live within 50 miles of the Capitol and return to their homes after a day of legislative work. The stipends are meant to cover lodging, food and incidental expenses, and the payments are no different for lawmakers who live in Nashville neighborhoods and those living much farther away.
The part-time lawmakers collect a $19,000 salary and an $185 per diem. As of Oct. 1, the daily allowance drops down to $176 because it is tied to the federal travel reimbursement rate.
The TNReport analysis also included Turner’s per diem habits. Of the 30 lawmakers examined, Turner’s collections ranked in the lower third of the group, accepting $16,266 in the last year. Others living within a short distance of the Capitol collected more, like Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, whose $23,473 in payments topped the list.
“I think the per diem thing is something we need to look at,” said Turner, “but it’s down on my list.”