Carpe Per Diem

Interested in the actual practice of legislators’ reimbursements and per diem? I recommend this piece on state legislators’ per diem from Walter C. Jones of Morris News Service through our friends over at Online Athens. It covers the multiple philosophies and reimbursement practices of several legislators around the state.

While it’s a common practice for taxpayers to rail against the per diem and expenses reimbursement for state lawmakers, the truth is less troublesome. The common state representative shares a secretary with four other legislators. There are exceptions for committee chairmen and floor leaders, but for most it affects productivity and constituent services. For that reason some per diem is spent for support rather than cover the personal costs of the legislator and up to $7,000 per year can be reimbursed to rank-and-file lawmakers.

Lawmakers like Rep. Craig Gordon, D-Savannah, who spend their entire allotment on aides, say volunteers aren’t reliable and the shared secretary isn’t always available.
“It’s just hard to keep track of all the constituent calls and organize things on a daily basis,” Gordon said, noting that he usually can only hire a college student or retiree for the available sum.

I would like to now how many of our state legislators actually lose money representing us even after being paid the princely sum of $17,342 per year. State government has increased its role in our lives, though nothing like the federal government. Is it time to allocate more resources from the state toward legislative constituent services?

And I would like to see a biennial budget practices at the state and federal level. I believe it could help by making better use of the support staff that is provided.


  1. Lawton Sack says:

    A little surprised that this topic did not have any discussion. I don’t have time to write a missive at the moment, but I would think that technology should be able to be a part of a solution for this. I just got off a call that saved the participants 7+ hours of travel, fuel costs, and lodging costs. I realize that there are non-technology people in the General Assembly, but there are technologies available now that would allow for committee meetings to be held without having to go to Atlanta.

    • Ken says:

      Lawton, I agree on all of your points.

      Perhaps a few IT professionals and some computer literate aides could take care of a lot of this. I do believe that some additional assistance with constituent services could be of use and – using technology – that assistance should be located remotely where lower wages and rents would save the state government money. Other than shaking hands and screening visitors, everything else a support staff should do can be done remotely.

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