Commission Declines to Raise Legislators' Session Pay

At the urging of top Republican leaders in the Texas House and Senate, the Texas Ethics Commission has declined to raise the session pay for state legislators.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus asked the commission in early January not to raise the per diem that legislators get every day they’re in session. The commission, charged with setting the rate, had proposed raising it from $150 to $179 ahead of its meeting this week.

But Thursday, commissioners voted 6-2 to accept the leaders' recommendation and go with the lower figure, according to Jim Clancy, the chairman of the commission. The decision cost legislators about $4,000 for the session.

Legislators get an annual salary of just $7,200, and the per diems were conceived as a way to defray living costs while legislators are away from home. Members typically pocket them and use their campaign accounts to pay for lodging and other expenses during sessions.

At $150 a day, members will get $21,000 in per diems for the 140-day session. They would have gotten $25,060 at the higher rate.

State Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, and Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, chairman of the administration committees in their respective chambers, urged leaders to push the commission not to raise members’ pay, officials said.

“Just as we have asked agencies and other institutions of government to reduce spending, we believe the Texas Legislature should do its part to cut costs and identify efficiencies in our operations,” Eltife said. “We felt like this was not the time to raise our per diem.” 

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