Lame-Ducks in Mass use their per diem crutch

In deep blue Massachusetts (of all places) the legislative session ends on July 31st during election years. The shortened calendar affords lawmakers the opportunity to campaign for re-election unfettered by legislative responsibilities. Since there is no formal session until the new legislature in sworn in the following January, the people of Massachusetts are safe from the political machinations and corrupt influence of lame-duck lawmakers.
In spite of the recess on Beacon Hill, lame ducks have been cradling their injured left wings and limping to the public trough for one last feast on the taxpayers. The Boston Herald reports that a number of Massachusetts lawmakers have been continuing to rack up per diem compensation (since the end of the session) to the collective tune of nearly 100K. Among the people’s representatives cashing in are:
· State Rep. Christopher J. Donelan (D-Orange) put in the most per diems of any outgoing legislator, raking in $7,350 for 147 days; driving in from Orange, 72 miles from Boston, he got $50 for every day he came to the State House.
· State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley (D-North Adams) pulled in $6,120 for 66 travel days on top of his $76,000 salary. He asked to be reimbursed for travel days until Nov. 11, four months after lawmakers formally closed up shop.
· State Rep. Brian P. Wallace (D-South Boston) requested 143 days of travel pay despite living only 2.6 miles away from the State House. He took home $1,430 in addition to his $61,440 salary.
Neither Donelan nor Wallace returned calls for comment, but Bosley defended the stipends.
“I’m unapologetic about it,” he said. “Per diems are the way that we equalize the playing field in this state and let anyone other than rich people serve in the Legislature.”
In a remarkable (no doubt unintentional) moment of honesty on the subject, State Rep. Robert S. Hargraves said that the $4342 he nabbed in per diem money is important because, “There will be a hiatus until I collect my retirement. It takes a little bit of the edge off for the next few weeks.”
Andrew Moylan who serves as Director of Government Affairs with the National Taxpayers Union acknowledges that this is a symptom of the legislative way of life which “contributes to a larger and more expensive government.” Moylan observed that the full-time lawmakers pay and benefit structure is “wholly untethered to the realities that workers in the private sector face.”
Still, 100K in per diems is a small price to pay for not having the lame ducks pushing their agenda on the taxpayers in a post-election frenzy. Meanwhile in Illinois, the lame duck session pushed through a law allowing for same-sex civil unions despite widespread opposition from the voters, a bill which was too controversial to be debated in earnest before the election. And in Washington D.C….
December 18. 2010