Tab $21M: Special session boosts cost

Last year, it cost more than $19 million in total expenses for state lawmakers, legislative pages, assistants and operating expenses. The auditor’s 2008 report covered one year.

The 2009 report shows that lawmakers’ salaries and travel expenses totaled more than $8.8 million for an off-and-on regular session that was extended for several months because of the difficulty balancing the budget. Their salaries and travel expenses cost about $1 million more than in the 2008 report.

The $8.8 million also includes expenses for an off-and-on special session last summer and a one-day special session this year. It does not include the cost of two other special sessions this year that were required to continue funding for state agencies.

Lawmakers say the total amounts they were paid, which range from $37,000 to $66,000, don’t show what they’re left with after paying their bills, which include gasoline, lodging and meals. But taxpayer watchdogs maintain that elected officials could be spending less as a national recession slows state revenues.