Matt Rothschild

Senators Give Themselves 31% Increase

In non-public meeting they approve 31% raise in their per day expenses.

By - Feb 27th, 2017 09:43 am
Scott Fitzgerald

Scott Fitzgerald

The GOP-controlled state Senate has approved a 31 percent hike in their per diems, allowing them to claim up to $115 a day for expenses when they are in Madison.

Previously, most state senators could claim up to $88 a day, and senators who live in Dane County could claim up to $44 on work days in Madison. The expense allowance is in addition to their $50,950 annual salary.

The expense allowance is intended to cover travel, lodging and meals. Senators may claim the entire allowable amount without submitting spending receipts, and keep any difference between their actual expenses and the reimbursement claim. Also, legislators can take the per diem even if they just work a couple of minutes on the day of their claim. Last year, the 33-member Senate as whole claimed nearly $201,000 in per diems, led by GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, of Juneau, at about $14,300.

The per diem increase, which is not voted on by the entire Senate like legislative policy and spending bills, was approved 4-1 on a ballot vote Monday with no public meeting by the five-member Senate Organization Committee. The committee is comprised of three Republican and two Democratic Senate leaders.

Voting in favor of the per diem increase were Fitzgerald, Assistant GOP Minority Leader Leah Vukmir, of Brookfield, GOP Senate President Roger Roth, of Appleton, and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, of La Crosse.

Assistant Democratic Minority Leader Janet Bewley, of Ashland, voted against the increase.

Two years ago, the Assembly increased its per diems, which also used to be $88 a day. Now, Assembly representatives may claim up to $69 for a single day in Madison, and up to $138 when they stay overnight. Assembly members may claim per diems for up to 153 days in a year. Last year, Assembly representatives claimed a total of about $484,500 in expenses, led by Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca, of Kenosha, who claimed about $9,600.

Both the Assembly and Senate, which have been controlled by Republicans since 2010, have routinely opposed proposals to increase the minimum wage and supported plans to tighten requirements for food stamps and other state aid for the poor.

Matthew Rothschild is executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

Categories: Politics

54 thoughts on “Senators Give Themselves 31% Increase”

  1. Signs Schaitel says:

    I think if we can afford to pay this kind of money to our fighting, arguing politicians, we must be able to give ourselves a huge tax break. After all it’s our money not thiers.

  2. Karl Held says:

    If one took all the raises I received over my 37 1/2 years of working for the State of Wisconsin, I doubt they would add up to the 31% these legislators gave themselves in one action.

  3. Daphneglossip says:

    Shame on them. Cost of living should have been sufficient. Who gets 31% raises??

  4. Casey says:

    This is for per diem reimbursement not a salary raise…..

  5. AG says:

    So I’m assuming based on the first three comments that the above wasn’t actually read… It was not a 31% increase in salary…

  6. Peter Daanen says:

    As the senators give themselves a raise their proposing bills to take away the prevailing wage laws.Which will lower wages for every worker in Wisconsin union or non-union

  7. Karl Held says:

    Yes, I understand the difference between a pay pay raise and a per diem bump, but 31% increase in any reimbursement seems to me a bit extravagant for any public “servant”.

  8. Barb - West Bend says:

    So these Senators vote themselves, in secret, a 31% increase in their “per diem” subsidies with no accountability to anyone? How lovely for them. Do any of them sleep overnight in their offices so that they can”pocket” their per diem pay, or crash at a friend’s home? Are they eligible for taxpayer subsidized meals at the Capitol’s cafeteria? They provide no accountability to taxpayers while they vote to cut food stamps, Medicaid and rent assistance to low income Wisconsinites. I suggest that all these Senators be drug tested before receiving their unaccountable taxpayer assistance. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

    Do Assembly and Senators get health insurance through their government jobs? If so, what is their share of the cost?

  9. Lori Kone says:

    Really getting sick of being robbed from every corner as a taxpayer. Growing up in Wisconsin, I always thought that we were the perfect example of good, upstanding, average Joe citizens to the rest of the country, but no matter what we do, no matter how hard we work, people keep stealing from our pockets. Everything that we were raised to believe, behave, work hard, follow the rules, just does NOT apply anymore. I sure wish my husband and I could just vote ourselves a raise, every time we need a little extra to get us by, but no, that won’t ever happen. Instead, we have to work harder, tighten our spending, dig for that little bit extra, all of the time, just to get by, screw you guys! We’re close to retirement now, and I can promise you, what ever money we will have, we’ll be taking and moving to a different place, outside of here, with our money, before you can take any more.

  10. iLah Hartung says:

    Yep fill us in on the details of the cost of living in the life of a Senator! Standard procedure used to be a vote like this would only apply to the NEXT session, rather than current session, effective immediately. Greed only marches on!.

  11. Vincent Hanna says:

    Is what they did fiscally responsible AG? Is it warranted?

  12. Casey says:

    Barb- “Do any of them sleep overnight in their offices so that they can”pocket” their per diem pay, or crash at a friend’s home? Are they eligible for taxpayer subsidized meals at the Capitol’s cafeteria? They provide no accountability”

    They provide receipts to validate the reimbursement request. Those are public records. If you really are curious just submit an open records req.

  13. Vincent Hanna says:

    Do it before the State Supreme Court rules that legislators don’t have to reply to open records requests anymore.

  14. AG says:

    If they are staying overnight, I’d imagine it is warranted because $88 a day is ridiculously low for lodging, food, and travel expenses. That being said, I’m not a fan of the blanket daily rate without receipts… but that is supposedly offset by the fact that they can’t claim expenses above that rate like Federal workers can.

  15. Kim says:

    Casey – it says right in the article that they do not need to submit receipts and can claim the entire amount, and pocket the difference between actual expenses and what they spent. Open Records request would only get you totals of who gets what. Not what they spent it on. It almost seems like you are defending this.

  16. Rhonda Heumiller says:

    Disgusting pigs. I can’t wait for them to be removed from office. WISCONSIN wake up…..

  17. Barb - West Bend says:

    Casey, am I understanding this wrong?

    “The expense allowance is intended to cover travel, lodging and meals. Senators may claim the entire allowable amount without submitting spending receipts, and keep any difference between their actual expenses and the reimbursement claim. Also, legislators can take the per diem even if they just work a couple of minutes on the day of their claim. Last year, the 33-member Senate as whole claimed nearly $201,000 in per diems, led by GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, of Juneau, at about $14,300.”


  18. Sandra says:

    How can they vote this in when we the taxpayers should say wether they can via our tax dollars.!!! I think someone needs to to be creating some kind of balance and we the tax payers can vote on it PERIOD.!!!

  19. Samantha Stark says:

    This is absurd. As a state employee, I have gotten 30 cents in raises since 2008, which is $2.40 per day. How the public would scream if actual workers got a 31% raise, especially if we could collect a full day’s reimbursement for just a few minutes of work like these clowns. Plus state workers aren’t even eligible for overnight lodging unless they travel more than 50 miles from home. I know that Juneau to Madison is not that many miles. Go home at night Fitzgerald!

  20. paula dabel says:

    Imagine that… done behind closed doors. What ever happened to checks and balances!

  21. Kathy says:

    This is not an unreasonable increase for traveling expenses, especially for those from farther parts of the state. Madison is not an inexpensive place to visit, especially around the capitol.

  22. Deise says:

    If they had to submit receipts at least, it would be understandable. It’s just a blank check. Another example of bloated Republican thinking, although, I will say it is expensive to hotel in Madison. It should be verified by receipts, and limited as to amount per meal.

  23. Casey says:

    Sorry Kim and Barb,

    No, I do not defend this practice. For whatever reason I missed that line. My apologies.

    I audit state reimbursements and we require receipts and will randomly call the provider to confirm a transaction. I’m surprised that law makers aren’t held to a similar standard.
    Still… I have no problem with the increase bit I do have a problem with the lake of accountability.

    1) UM should do an open records request to see who claims what and ask if there’s supporting receipts.

    2) I blame the liberals for this. It’s their fault that they made Madison a great place to live and work which increases the cost of everything. 😉

  24. Mike says:

    That is about all they can do is give themselves more money. When it comes down to good old fashioned common sense legislation they clam up. Do something to help the state, like fixing highways, more support for our schools, etc.

  25. Tom D says:

    As I read this, the old rate was $88/day, NOT $88/night. They could get $176/night if they spent 2 days (1 night) in Madison. That seems like plenty for a night in a hotel and meals.

    For example, hotels in Madison are available tonight for $82 (Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Candlewood Suites, etc) if you are a state government employee.

  26. AG says:

    It is frustrating how many comments on here are by people who didn’t read the article and assume this was a pay raise. That being said, maybe UM should do a better job of preventing misleading headlines.

  27. Susan Striebel says:

    If they set up an internet meeting from their homes, they could eliminate the per diem costs entirely. Using the money saved to replace the road reconstruction fund that was stolen to balance budgets from past legislators. Why do legislators feel that they deserve a 31% raise when regular citizens can not get any raise at all?

  28. Vivian says:

    Wow and S.S got 1 Penny… They don’t deserve it. If I would of done my job like them I would of been fired with any benefits.This is all B.S..They should only have a title of two terms… We need to get control of our country from these politions that are selling off our government and becoming millionairs off of our money. Remember that when you vote. No matter what party you are. God Bless America… We need help from greedy people.

  29. Casey says:

    Yeah….but then they would use working from their homes as an excuse to use tax money to build an addition to their home for a dedicated home office.

  30. Mike Longfield says:

    For those saying that it is not a salary raise. This is true, but they do not have to show receipts to claim this, and are able to claim the difference. Many will abuse this, and I’m sure they have been abusing it. My point is, just like the salary that the “might ” earn, this per diem will go to further their financial gains. So it might as well be a salary increase.

  31. Paulikne says:

    Scott Fitzgerald lives about an hour from Madison. When I worked an hour from my job, I drove home every night. Does he need to stay in Madison every time he shows up there? Especially if they live close enough to commute. Does he need to get reimbursed for meals? Everybody else has to pay for their own meals when they are working. Why are they “special”? Isn’t their $50,000+ salary enough to get them to work and back and to “feed” themselves?

  32. Cill says:

    Per Diems are a company’s way of getting away with giving their employees bonuses or raises in lieu of actual raise in salary cuz it is tax ductable straight across for them. If this were not the case the company would require receipts.

  33. Jenifer says:

    I just sourced this info on the web for Madison, WI for an overnight stay on March 2nd:
    Microtel – weeknight, one queen bed: $69
    The Madison Concourse Hotel – weeknight, one queen bed: $139
    When I was a county employee, I would travel in-state for conferences. We got the state rate for hotel rooms, which was $55/night. Each meal had a max amount covered, but the conferences usually included coffee/bagels in the morning and a catered lunch. I think the per diem for each was around $10. The per diem for the evening meal was $20. We had to turn in all receipts to get reimbursed, and there was no option to “pocket” the difference. Personally, I always felt the meal per diem was silly. A person needs to eat whether they are working or not, and unless your only dining option is the hotel restaurant, you can always find a meal for less than $10.

  34. nick says:

    I do not think that any public servant Republican or Democrat should be able to vote themselves a pay-raise. How is it that when these people keep rejecting any raise in wages for the poor, blatantly pad their already insanely over-kill expense accounts which they do not have to produce receipts for? The system is broke. It needs to be fixed. From what I read, it is like the “mob” has taken control and are just making laws to make it legal for to steal from tax payers with impunity.

  35. Daryl klemp says:

    I didnt recieve any sort of increase to my pay since 2008 Bush recession, and i have to bring my own lunch.

  36. Michelle says:

    They do not need to show receipts. They do not even have to work a full day to be able to claim this. They could show up for 5 minutes and claim the full per diem regardless if they really used it/needed it or not.

  37. AG says:

    I find it interesting that some of the people here who oppose a $27 per diem increase are the same ones who thought I was a terrible person for suggesting that Milwaukee bus drivers who make six figure salaries are overpaid.

    I’m pretty neutral on this per diem increase, but I also like to keep things in perspective. Yes, I do recognize that a lot of this angst is purely because the GOP is in power.

  38. jeff says:

    If they are in town for one day of business, then they ought to pack a ham sandwich, the same as their penny pinching leader Scott “I got a Kohl’s coupon” Walker claims to do every day.

  39. Teri Franz says:

    Remember they are charged the ‘state’ rate for expenses. And where was the money for education or transportation for that fact. And who else is getting a raise?

  40. Vincent Hanna says:

    I think it also has to do with how the GOP legislature operates AG. They are doing a whole lot in secret or with as little public notice as humanly possible. Some are more upset with how they did it than what they did. And that is totally and completely valid.

  41. Tom D says:

    AG, If an MCTS driver makes over $100,000, it’s because he worked over 70 hours/week, 50 weeks/year (assuming 2 weeks of vacation). In 2009 (latest year I can cite), their top hourly rate (including shift premium for drivers who finish work after 2am) was $22.50/hour (before the federally-mandated time-and-a-half for anything over 40 hr/wk).

    If you worked at a GM plant and put in 12 hr/day, 6 days/wk for 50 weeks, you’d also make over $100k.

  42. Vincent Hanna says:

    Yes my father-in-law worked for GM and made that kind of money when he worked overtime. What a leech. We’re going to have words the next time I see him.

  43. AG says:

    Tom D, unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. They get paid minimum block hours… so even if they work for 2 hours on an extra day, they’ll get paid for a shift. So they aren’t really working as much as you think. (2017 pay is $24.45) Plus they can retire as young as 47… good for them, bad for taxpayers.

    If MCTS could have agreed to allow more part time workers to fill in the oddball shifts then we’d have more money for transit than all the per diems combined.

    Vincent, I see what your saying, and the only reason I’m not that bothered is because it was just adjusting expense limits and not a salary increase (which wouldn’t take affect until after the next term anyway).

  44. Dianna says:

    $88 dollars a day is $2600 a month for expenses for ONE person. Who in their right mind would think this is acceptable? Some families live on less than that. That’s crap and anyone who defends this needs a reality check.

  45. Jim says:

    If you think this is bad, you should google expense accounts for congress and senators, over 1,000,000 (million) per year! And some of them are complaining they need a raise.

  46. Vincent Hanna says:

    You should be bothered because it fits a pattern. If it’s not a big deal then why the secrecy? Because maybe people would have objected and they didn’t want to risk that?

  47. Disgrunaled says:

    Really! I have worked for the State for 9 years and seen one raise of .05%, the same year they took out 3% increase for insurance and retirement. But according to the Governor we are the haves. Don’t get me wrong we have people working for the State making 6 figures and get a raise each year (they are the haves). The front line staff that work a schedule of 7 on 2 off never see a dime. These Legislators have the balls to give themselves a per diem raise. I understand that it is not a true raise in the sense but they use the per diem every week traveling back and forth and when ever they want. Time to retire and move out of State.

  48. Cindy Phillips says:

    can you imagine….a business where employees could give themselves pay raises without the owners permission !!?? The taxpayers own this government and the peoples taxes pay these employees……so , NO !!THEY SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO GIVE THEMSELVES PAY RAISES!! It Should be on the Ballot, just like it used to be before1969.

  49. There should be no pay raises for Congress until vets are taken care of properly, seniors don’t have to choose between meds and food or housing, children are fed , clothed and in safe homes, single payer health insurance, all corporations come off the federal teat, and pay their fair share of taxes, and back taxes. This is gross malfeasance of tax payer dollars. As a matter of fact, Congress hasn’t done their job since Reagan, so they should pay us back. All they do is go on trips, on our dimes, they pass laws which do more harm than good. They wasted millions on Benghazi, Clinton e-mails, repeal attempts at ACA. I want to see all that money repaid to the Fed before they get so much as a penny raise! In all reality, congress should live in their home, commute to DC, get the same pay as a major in the military, no more than that. All this chumming is unhealthy for our economy!

  50. Joseph P. says:

    Scott’s eyes, though. I never realized blue could look so evil…

  51. Jerrold Thompson says:

    And this is LITERALLY THE DEATHMASK OF AMERICA. Pink plump babymen whites taking what they have not spent one millisecond working for or earning.
    We are a crime against nature and deserve to die out – too fragile and childlike to see to our own basic earthly needs and so stealing them for centuries. We were founded on other “less valuable beings” doing our work for us while we sat around spinning schemes for keeping them servile. White middlemen “field bosses” are no longer needed but still need their fat gobs fed.
    No natural order will stand the burden of this much dead weight. Everyone has been sweating and dying in fields and factories so that we total moral & fiscally irresponsible creatures can sip mint juleps and contract STD’s on our verandas in The Villages far too long.
    White people in their death throes.

  52. Jeannie says:

    I don’t believe that they have earned the right to a salary increase. They already make to much.

  53. Deborah Danirld says:

    You voted them in, vote them out. Develope short term limits. Submit a law that every one of these robbers have to have a list of every expenditure & expense they claim published in your newspapers.

  54. Karen Davenport says:

    There is no way on Gods green earth these idiots deserve a 31% increase per day for anything. This is worse than greed ifs that possible. Gods Holy Bible states greedy ones shall not enter the kingdom of Heaven. All these damn idiots are going to hell; even that will be too good for each of them. Yet everyday I’m reading where they’re cutting funds for poor people. They are hell bent & that’s a Biblical Fact. God Almighty isn’t satisfied nor pleased with them. Yet they have repeatedly refused to raise mimnnumim wages. How in hell do these individuals sleep at night. Yet they are awe struck when an individual gets on the white House lawn. After the research & factual number I’ve gotten the American people will resist & we all should. This is absurd, no one in the private sector gives themselves a 31% increase in pay. They do not deserve what they’re making. We. The American People demand a law to allow the American People to give them raises.

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