Education bills top agenda Wednesday _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Louisiana Capitol Building.

The increase in legislators’ pay package comes because their per diem jumped from $150 to $157 – a $7 a day increase.

By law, legislators’ per diem is adjusted automatically every time the federal government changes the reimbursement rate for food and lodging for federal employees traveling in the Baton Rouge area.

The change occurs automatically every Oct. 1.

Until 1997, the legislative per diem rate had been set in law at $75 a day. Since then, it has generally gone up annually – hitting a high of $159 in 2009 before it went down.

Legislators receive the per diem every day they are in legislative session, attending interim committee meetings and going to office-related conferences both in and out-of-state.

The $7 a day boost will cost taxpayers another $60,480 as legislators meet in regular session in 2016 for 60 days. That’s $420 more for each of the 144 legislators.

The cost will go up even more with per diems associated with at least two special fiscal legislative sessions promised by governor’s candidates Democrat John Bel Edwards and Republican David Vitter. And that’s not counting other routine non-session meetings.

The daily payment is on top of legislators’ $16,800-a-year base pay, plus office, travel and other expense allowances. Per diem is counted as taxable income by the Internal Revenue Service.

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