House Approves Cut in Per Diem Expense Payments for Nashville Area Legislators

The House approved 71-15 Monday evening a bill that would – if the Senate agrees – reduce automatic daily expense payments to legislators living near Nashville by $107 per day.
“I find it hard to look constituents in the eye when they ask, ‘Why we paying you 107 a day for a hotel you don’t use’,” said Rep. Rick Womick, R-Murfreesboro, sponsor of HB80.
Legislators now get $173 per day as an automatic “per diem” daily expense allowance. The bill eliminates $107 of that – the amount calculated to cover the cost of a motel room – for those whose residence is within 50 miles of the state Capitol building. They would continue to receive the remaining $66, deemed the amount needed for meals, and would collect mileage from the state for commuting daily.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville criticized the proposal, saying the 50 mile rule was arbitrary and unfair. Womick said that is the standard set by the Internal Revenue Service, which considers the payments as taxable income for legislators living within 50 miles.
In fact, Womick said a secondary advantage was the IRS would collect less in taxes from the affected legislators, including himself. He said about $45 of the $107 he has been collecting has been “sent straight to Washington.”
The companion bill has been stalled in a Senate committee for weeks after Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, said he wants to consider an amendment that would instead require legislators to submit an actual motel bill receipt for reimbursement.
Rep. Johnnie Turner, D-Memphis, also criticized the bill, saying legislators, regardless of where they live, do not receive enough for their work. She quoted Gov. Bill Haslam as saying at a recent reception for legislators that he calculates legislators actually are paid about 50 cents an hour for their labors.

2 thoughts on “House Approves Cut in Per Diem Expense Payments for Nashville Area Legislators

Leave a Reply