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Sunday, April 14, 2024
Legislators logged more travel expenses in 2015 than in previous years, despite working fewer days.

Legislators logged more travel expenses in 2015 than in previous years, despite working fewer days.

Policy change gives lawmakers more in per diem, documents show

Members of the state Assembly logged over $900,000 in travel and per diem expenses in 2015, according to state documents.

The per diem policy for those lawmakers has come under scrutiny after a USA Today Network-Wisconsin report which showed that many members of the state Assembly earned more in per diem despite working fewer days last year.

The increase can be explained by a policy change last year which allows representatives to claim $138 for each overnight stay in Madison and $69 for each day trip. The previous rules allowed lawmakers only to claim a flat $88 for each trip they logged to the Capitol.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said at the time the change was necessary to keep pace with rising travel costs and that any increase would not cost state taxpayers more money.

Vos spokesperson Kit Beyer told USA Today-Wisconsin Tuesday that the increase still “reflects the reimbursement of actual costs incurred by representatives who stay overnight in Madison.” Vos told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel later that he would push to roll back the increase for 2016.

A review of documents released by the assembly chief clerk found that lawmakers varied in how much they claimed.

Representatives from Dane County receive fewer travel days because of their proximity to the Capitol, but state Reps. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, Lisa Subeck, D-Madison and Sondy Pope, D-Cross Plains, all claimed the maximum $10,557 each. State Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, who represents the UW-Madison campus, claimed $9,108.

Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, claimed the most per diem of any state representative, checking in at $16,970. His Republican colleague, state Rep. Nancy VanderMeer, R-Tomah, claimed only nine travel days and received a paltry $450 in per diem, by far the lowest amount of any member of the Assembly.

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