The full Senate gave approval to a bill that will allow the Senate President Pro Tempore and the Speaker of the House to adjust per diem rates given to legislative members.
Senate Bill 607, by Senator Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, will allow for additional budget savings by reducing the overall reimbursement rate to members that receive lodging per diem. The rate is set by federal internal revenue code and the Oklahoma legislative per diem is tied to the federal reimbursement rate. Statute permits legislators that live at least 50 miles away from the capitol to receive per diem and/or mileage everyday that the legislature is in session.
“No sacred cows here -- no one is exempt -- we will reduce our own budget too,” said Bingman. “Senate Republicans strongly believe that we should lead by example. We feel that we cannot ask other agencies to reduce their budgets unless we are equally willing to do it to ourselves.”
The legislature cannot reduce its own salary or benefit compensation, which is set by the Legislative Compensation Review Board. By law it can change the per diem rate. In light of these restraints, Bingman said that this is one way to allow the legislature to be responsive to the pending $500 million budget shortfall.
“These reimbursement rates are set by IRS bureaucrats in Washington D.C.,” said Bingman. “We do not have to follow their lead.”
Senate Bill 607 is part of a series of measures that Pro Tem Bingman and the Senate are pursuing in an effort to curb spending. Cost cutting practices of the Senate have resulted in $2.3 million in savings to the Senate budget. Senate leaders maintain that proactive preparation is preferred when dealing with inevitable budget cuts this year.
The bill, which passed with bi-partisan support 41 to 2, will now move to the House of Representatives for further consideration.