Legislators’ Salary & Benefits Package Nearly $60,000 Per Year

Though state legislators talk about working for low pay, in reality, they take home more money as part-time lawmakers than most Tennesseans do in a year, reports Andrea Zelinski.
Looking at annual salary alone, lawmakers take home no less than $20,000 a year. Factor in their per diem for food and lodging, health insurance benefits and 401K, and it’s closer to $60,000.
…Lawmakers collect a legislative salary of $20,203 a year. Add in $12,000 a year for a home office — regardless whether they’ve set one up — and lawmakers make $8,000 more annually than the average Tennessean.
According to the U.S. Census, the per capita income in the state was $24,197 as recently at 2011.
State legislators also collect $173 in per diem expenses to cover their food and lodging while working at the seat of government or conducting government business, an amount tied to federal government rates. The daily automatic pay breaks down to $107 a night for lodging and $66 for meals and incidentals, whether the money is used for those reasons or not.
Sitting senators last year took home more than $14,600 on average in per diem, according to a review of state records by The City Paper. Legislators in the House of Representatives averaged more than $13,800 each in per diem.
…Lawmakers can also opt into the state’s health insurance program for state employees, which covers 80 percent of the premium. The state’s share of monthly premiums ranges from nearly $6,000 for individuals to $15,400 for families.
Long-term, sitting lawmakers also qualify to cash in on pension benefits once they leave office. After hitting 55 years of age, lawmakers who have served at least four years can begin collecting a pension that boils down to $81.73 per month for each year in the General Assembly. That’s a minimum of almost $4,000 a year for a lawmaker who spent the four years in the legislature needed to qualify
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