Nearly two-thirds of all legislators claimed at least some retroactive per diem. Four claimed the max.

Something might be going on in there.The Alaska State Capitol building as photographed in 2010. (Photo by Kimberly Vardeman/Creative Commons)

It took legislators 26 days on top of the regular 121-day session to finally pass an operating budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. During that time thanks to a new law signed into effect in 2018, legislators were barred from collecting per diem, but that didn’t stop the Alaska Legislative Council from skirting the rules and approving retroactive payments.

According to records released by the Legislative Affairs Agency this week, 38 of the 57 legislators eligible to collect per diem have applied for at least some per diem retroactively, for a total payment of $138,618. The three Juneau legislators are ineligible to receive any per diem because they live within 50 miles of the location of the session.

Four legislators claimed per diem for all 26 days, bringing home payments of $7,852. Those legislators include former Senate Majority Leader Mia Costello, far-right minority Rep. David Eastman, House Finance Committee co-chair Rep. Neal Foster and Golovin Democratic Sen. Donny Olson.

The daily per diem rate for legislators is $302. The average payout to legislators who collected per diem was $3,647.

Legislators across the political spectrum collected per diem payments but the vast majority of the 19 legislators who outright rejected per diem altogether were Republicans.

Four Democrats rejected the payments: Sens. Tom Begich and Bill Wielechowski, Reps. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins and Grier Hopkins. Meanwhile 15 Republicans claimed zero days of per diem during the budget impasse: Sens. Shelley Hughes, Peter Micciche and Natasha von Imhof, and Reps. Ben Carpenter, Jennifer Johnston, Gary Knopp, Gabrielle LeDoux, Mark Neuman, Lance Pruitt, Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, Dave Talerico, Cathy Tilton, Sarah Vance and Tammie Wilson.

The 2018 law barred legislators from collecting per diem after the end of the 121-day session until the day after a budget is passed. The Legislature received legal advice from its counsel that the retroactive payments would be permissible because they were collected after the budget passed.

Sen. Bert Stedman, the Sitka Republican who was the lone legislator to speak in favor of the retroactive payments (and would collect $5,436 in per diem for 18 days), said the restriction on per diem would create a bad precedent for the Legislature and undermine the ability of people to serve in the Legislature regardless of their personal finances.

“There is some concern there that it would encourage members to not support an operating budget so they could drive it into special session and squeeze particular political opponents that may not have the financial resources that others do,” he said at the time, adding, “We have people from all walks and talks of life and different financial means available. I don’t want to see us restrict membership of the Legislature to retired, financially set Alaskans. It should be available for all Alaskans.”

He said legislators who objected to the payments didn’t have to collect them.

Here’s the full list of legislators per diem claims and the amount of money they received

LegislatorDays ClaimedTotal Amount
Tom Begich0$0.00
Chris Birch13$3,926.00
Click Bishop13$3,926.00
Ben Carpenter0$0.00
Matt Claman7$2,114.00
John Coghill19$5,738.00
Mia Costello26$7,852.00
Harriet Drummond9$2,718.00
David Eastman26$7,852.00
Bryce Edgmon13$3,926.00
Zack Fields6$1,812.00
Neal Foster26$7,852.00
Cathy Giessel17$5,134.00
Elvi Gray-Jackson5$1,510.00
Lyman Hoffman10$3,020.00
Grier Hopkins0$0.00
Shelley Hughes0$0.00
Sharon Jackson15$4,530.00
DeLena Johnson1$302.00
Jennifer Johnston0$0.00
Andy Josephson17$5,134.00
Scott Kawasaki16$4,832.00
Gary Knopp0$0.00
Chuck Kopp12$3,624.00
Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins0$0.00
Bart LeBon8$2,416.00
Gabrielle LeDoux0$0.00
John Lincoln17$5,134.00
Kelly Merrick1$302.00
Peter Micciche0$0.00
Mark Neuman0$0.00
Donald Olson26$7,852.00
Daniel Ortiz11$3,322.00
Lance Pruitt0$0.00
Sara Rasmussen2$604.00
George Rauscher1$302.00
Lora Reinbold19$5,738.00
Josh Revak1$302.00
Laddie Shaw14$4,228.00
Michael Shower0$0.00
Ivy Spohnholz2$604.00
Bert Stedman18$5,436.00
Gary Stevens15$4,530.00
Louise Stutes6$1,812.00
Colleen Sullivan-Leonard0$0.00
David Talerico0$0.00
Geran Tarr1$302.00
Steve Thompson18$5,436.00
Cathy Tilton0$0.00
Chris Tuck2$604.00
Sarah Vance0$0.00
Natasha von Imhof0$0.00
Bill Wielechowski0$0.00
David Wilson13$3,926.00
Tammie Wilson0$0.00
Adam Wool14$4,228.00
Tiffany Zulkosky19$5,738.00

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3 Comments on "Nearly two-thirds of all legislators claimed at least some retroactive per diem. Four claimed the max."

  1. I would like to see the reported income of those who collected per diem

  2. Marna Sanford | August 22, 2019 at 9:30 am | Reply

    I wholeheartedly agree with Stedman in that I think when legislators are away from their homes and doing work, they should be paid. totally not controversial to me. What I do find incredibly shocking is the few legislators that did NOT go to Juneau – that LIVE in or near to Wasilla, some of whom did not even show up to the scheduled session for that day – collecting per diem. Per diem is for time AWAY from your home, AWAY from your bed, AWAY from your family – while you are WORKING!!!! I am 100% looking at you: Eastman, Jackson, Shaw, Costello, Reinbold, Wilson. Not cool. Not cool.

  3. They should NOT collect per diem. If they would have done their job, they would have not had to go into a special session.

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