Skip to comments.Lawmakers get $150,000 in travel, per-diem payments (Louisiana)
Posted on 11/15/2005 3:23:39 AM PST by Ellesu
In the two months after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Louisiana legislators received more than $100,000 in extra income for attending briefings and other meetings related to the storms. A review of legislative files revealed legislators received another $50,000-plus in travel expenses to attend the meetings.
Lawmakers get so-called per-diem payments for attending committee meetings and conducting other state business between legislative sessions.
Lawmakers received $113 a day for September meetings they attended. The payment went up to $115 a day in October.
Records also show that the hurricanes derailed the out-of-state travel plans of some legislators. But others went anyway, getting per diem and travel and other expenses paid by taxpayers.
Lawmakers' base pay is $16,800 annually plus per diem for every day from the start to the end of a legislative session, regular or special. The House speaker and Senate president have a $38,000 base salary.
House Speaker Joe Salter, D-Florien, and Senate President Don Hines, D-Bunkie, drew the most extra pay. They were around the Capitol dealing with issues related to affected legislators and their constituents.
Salter put in for 34 days of what he listed as "speaker's duties." Hines got paid for 29 days "in the Capitol conducting the business of the Senate president."
At the other end of the spectrum were two Baton Rouge lawmakers who sought no per diem reimbursement -- state Reps. Gary Beard, a Republican, and William Daniel, a Democrat.
Some of the meetings that attracted the lawmakers were for standing committees. But most of the extra income came from participation in new committees established by Salter and Hines.
The Special Committees on Disaster Planning, Crisis Management, Recovery and Long-term Revitalization came into being along with a joint steering committee and various subcommittees. There was a subcommittee for just about every area of the state.
"I think that people from those affected areas felt like it was worthwhile. They didn't want us to appear like we weren't gathering information, like we weren't doing anything," said Salter.
"There was a perceived need," he said.
Hines said legislators wanted to get involved in recovery efforts in their areas. "This gave them some input into that and to better understand the problems," he said.
There were so many committees that some lawmakers billed taxpayers for committees they weren't on. Accounting officers caught the errors.
The meetings featured testimony by various government officials, all underscoring the severity of Louisiana's situation.
Salter said the special committees will likely continue for a while but might not be as active.
The special committees and their expenses were not anticipated when the Legislature developed its budget last year. Neither was the current special session.
The House will cut expenses by $1 million between now and June 30 to help balance the budget, Salter said.
Hines said he's uncertain about Senate cuts. "It would be silly to cut now and then have to ask for an appropriation to fund the next special session," Hines said.
At least nine lawmakers put in for reimbursement for attending a power-point presentation by Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu on hurricane effects on the state Office of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.
Salter, House Speaker Pro-tem Yvonne Dorsey, D-Baton Rouge, and House Ways and Means Committee chairman Bryant Hammett, D-Ferriday put in for pay when they went on a helicopter flight over the hurricane-devastated area.
Nearly four dozen lawmakers got paid for attending a Federal Emergency Management Agency hurricane briefing.
Lawmakers billed taxpayers for meetings with legislative staff and "interested parties" about legislation for the current special session and legislative leadership meetings.
Lawmakers also get per diem and expenses for out-of-state travel to legislation-related conferences. Some canceled trips in the last two months. But others continued to travel.
Sen. Reggie Dupre, D-Montegut, traveled to Washington, D.C., Oct. 17-20. Dupre met with the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and "stakeholders" about a hurricane protection plan. The bill: $1,780.98.
Reps. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner, and Ernest Wooten, R-Belle Chasse, scrapped a trip to a gambling conference in Las Vegas. But Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Grosse Tete, decided to go. His tab: $1,887.30.
Reps. Jalila Jefferson-Bullock, D-New Orleans, got five days per diem plus expenses, or $1,781, to attend a Congressional Black Caucus meeting in Washington, D.C., Sept. 21-25.
Rep. Diane Winston, R-Covington, canceled a trip to the U.S. Cultural and Heritage Tourism Summit planned for Oct. 6-8 in D.C. But Winston did fly to a National Federation of Women Legislators meeting in Phoenix, Ariz., Sept. 7-12. The tab: $1,112.25. Winston noted she held a federation post.
Sens. Jay Dardenne, R-Baton Rouge, and Art Lentini, R-Kenner, traveled to Toronto in mid-September to meet with movie industry people. The tab for Dardenne was $1,668 and Lentini, $1,318.
Reps. Michael Jackson, D-Baton Rouge, Wayne Waddell, R-Shreveport, and Sen. Nick Gautreaux, D-Meaux, went to a Naples, Fla., conference sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Sponsors covered the Oct. 5-8 costs. The lawmakers billed for per diem.
Rep. Ernest Baylor, D-Shreveport, went to an NCSL meeting in Washington, D.C., at a cost of $977.32.
Sen. Butch Gautreaux, D-Morgan City, attended a Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission meeting Sept. 16-20 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., at a cost of $1,165.
Sen. Chris Ullo, D-Marrero, traveled to Ottawa, Canada, to an Energy Council Executive Committee meeting. Ullo got per diem reimbursement for four days. The council paid other costs.
They didn't want us to appear like we weren't gathering information, like we weren't doing anything," said Salter.
Corruption is probably the main reason why I'm moving back to Florida.
In case it hasn't been said before; all of those that voted for Blanco instead of Jindal, you are getting what you deserve.
Corruption is probably the main reason why I'm moving back to Florida.
-----I wish you all the luck in the world. I truly hope things get better for you.
All these representatives and Senators (state and federal) think there is an unlimited amount of taxpayer money. There is so much money spent especially at the federal level that there is NO WAY it can be kept track of. Some of the liberals would say that this is just a small amount of money compared to the whole budget when anything is tried to be cut. NONSENSE! There is so much waste. It just can't go on forever!! The whole federal budget in 1984 was just under $500 billion!! Now, just 20 years later it's over 2 and a half TRILLION! How did that happen? Well in 1985 or 86 they changed the tax codes and the money started pouring into the coffers not to mention that the economy started growing. What did our lawmakers do? Did they save any of that money for a rainy day? Of course NOT. They spent it and more. This goes for both parties. They have been on a binge and they just can't stop themselves!
These legislators get a lot of extra perks too, on the taxpayer's dime. Wooley's truck, Mitch's new million dollar digs, Blanco's new bathroom, Foti's new hummers, Odom's sugar mill, bond commission's lawn mower races, etc. These legislators have and will continue to spend what they want with no regard for the taxpayers. Shame on them and shame on the voters who continue to vote for them and defend them. At a time when they are asking citizens of this state to tighten their belts, when they are begging the feds for money, they should do the same.
You're excusing the fools who charged the state for "committee meetings" for committees THEY WEREN'T ON. "To give the appearance" of working. To take helicopter rides. To go to Las Vegas.
(By the way, BOTH who didn't charge for per diem were living in Baton Rouge, AND DIDN'T NEED NOR DESERVE per diem. Baton Rouge is the capitol, rather you should have praised them for THEIR responsibility and honesty.)
So much for public service.
I fled to GA 12 years ago. Best move I ever made.
William 'Indicted' Jefferson's (D-La) daughter I do believe.
If you would like on the Louisiana Ping list please freepmail me and your name will be added.
This is beyond the pale. They all deserve to be taken out to the woodshed and publicly spanked. You would think that in a time of not one but two natural disasters the leaders would have a flippin' clue but dang their greed knows no end.
When do the term limits kick in? Isn't it 2007? I didn't see any from my area on the list yet.
16k salary is a great wage for part time work that supplies you a full tiem round the clock vehicle and a discretionary budget.
Thats what they told me in Basic training in 1960. quote " $78/month is good wages when we are giving you 3 hots and a cot".
Lets give Louisana many billions and argue over $116/day per diem. Makes sense to me.
It's not so much the money but the principle. This state had two major hurricanes hit in less than a month crippling the state economy. We are facing a billion dollar deficit just on lost tax revenues and a nearly 4 billion dollar FEMA bill.
These same legislatures will cut to the bone vital services before they will give up a penny of their perks. They haven't done much in the special session either. In a time of crisis leaders lead by example. These pols have the means to pay their own way and should under these very trying circumstances. The state is on the brink of bankruptcy and they don't give a rip. It's all about them.