OUR VIEW: Lawmaker travel pay too low; time to change itMaybe there is a point to the low compensation received by lawmakers for driving to Pierre to start the legislative session and again on their way home at session’s end.
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
Maybe there is a point to the low compensation received by lawmakers for driving to Pierre to start the legislative session and again on their way home at session’s end.
Perhaps tradition has played a part. Maybe the low reimbursement is a reminder to lawmakers that they are doing the people’s business and must remember to be frugal with taxpayer dollars.
Whatever the reason, lawmakers are getting a raw deal when they are paid only 5 cents per mile for their trip to Pierre to start the session and their trip home at the end.
Originally put in place in 1891, the mileage reimbursement is firmly set in the thick cement that is state law, and it’s going to take a statewide vote — crazy as that seems — to change it.
The issue will be on the November ballot. It’s possible the measure will not have a cadre of vocal supporters, since those who rail in favor of it may sound greedy. That’s the last thing a state legislator wants to do, and especially in times of economic dysfunction.
But think about it: A lawmaker who drives 200 miles at the start of the session and then 200 miles at the session’s end receives $20 for mileage reimbursement. Meanwhile, it likely costs the lawmaker between $60 and $80 to pay for the gas.
When lawmakers make other routine trips for state business they are reimbursed 37 cents per mile.
By the way, state lawmakers earn $6,000 per year for the roughly twomonth session. Many, however, lose a certain amount of income during that time while they are on leave from their regular jobs.
No matter. Whether a lawmaker is rich, poor or somewhere in between, paying them 5 cents per mile is a tradition that is insulting, considering their commitment to the state. Outdated, useless and downright stupid laws should be stricken from the books.
This November, we hope voters feel the same and opt to change the law so legislators can receive a deserved increase in their mileage.