Wednesday, August 5, 2020
4 Democrats Say Cut Legislator Pay During COVID
Senators Maria Collett (D-12 Montgomery/Bucks), Tim Kearney (D-26 Delaware/Chester), Katie Muth (D-44 Berks/Chester/Montgomery) and Lindsey M. Williams (D-38 Allegheny County) have introduced a bill memo for co-sponsorship to suspend per diem payments to members of the General Assembly through the duration of the COVID-19 emergency declaration.
Throughout the pandemic, Pennsylvanians have been asked to sacrifice for the sake of public health – so too should members of our legislature. Per diem payments are daily allowances intended to cover travel, lodging, meals and other expenses for Pennsylvania legislators when traveling to Harrisburg on session days or outside of their district on legislative business. Legislators can opt in or out of per diem payments. A temporary, unanimously passed rule change allows senators to participate in session remotely, eliminating the need to travel to Harrisburg and receive per diem for related expenses.
“As public servants, we have no higher duty than to stand with and support our constituents through challenging circumstances,” said Senator Collett. “This small sacrifice will ensure that legislators aren’t collecting money that may go to better use, and working remotely – something so many Pennsylvanians are being asked to do – will help keep legislators, their staff, and their communities safe from potential COVID-19 exposure.”
"At a time when more than one million Pennsylvanians are unemployed, state lawmakers should be setting an example by suspending per diems,” said Senator Kearney. “All of us have been asked to make sacrifices during this pandemic, and the General Assembly should be no different. This is the least we can do while we work towards a just economic recovery that helps all Pennsylvanians.”
“This is the very least public officials, who have had a paycheck the entire pandemic, can do,” said Senator Muth. “Pennsylvania taxpayers continue to pay per diem for legislators who travel to Harrisburg at a time when we should not be traveling. If a legislator chooses to go to Harrisburg, they should be responsible for the costs as a virtual option is available. So many are unemployed, due to the pandemic, and lining the pockets of salaried legislators should not be an option.”
“The Senate has unanimously adopted rules allowing all Members to fully participate remotely in all aspects of Session, committee meetings, and policy hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Williams. “Suspending these payments would not impact Members’ ability to fully represent their constituents in Harrisburg. I personally opted not to take a per diem because I believe that all spending of taxpayer dollars should be fully transparent, but this is even more important during an emergency when so many other Pennsylvanians are being asked to make sacrifices.”
Participating members of the General Assembly are paid $178 per day on per diem, and suspending these payments would free up hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money during an unprecedented public health and economic crisis. This legislation would prohibit per diem payments until the Governor’s Disaster Declaration related to COVID-19 has ended.
It should be noted that none of the prime sponsors of this bill receive a per diem.