Juneau Republican Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch said he's giving back half of his daily living allowance for the three-day session held last week and donating the rest to charity.
"The money could have been better spent," Weyhrauch said. "I couldn't in good conscience accept it."
The $25,000-a-day special session passed an altered version of Gov. Frank Murkowski's $1 tobacco tax increase but rejected his workers' compensation reform bill and his proposal to use a portion of the Alaska Permanent Fund for state government.
Weyhrauch's per diem take came to $459 for the three-day session.
Pam Varni, executive director for the Legislative Affairs Committee, said in addition to the daily living allowance, it costs about $25,000 to fly lawmakers to Juneau. The per diem rate for Alaska legislators is $204 a day and is set by the U.S. Department of Defense, Varni said. In addition to their living allowance, lawmakers earn $24,012 a year for their service.
She said the per diem for Juneau lawmakers is 75 percent of the full allowance because they do not have to find living quarters during the session. Weyhrauch may not be granted permission to return the money though, Varni said, because of the accounting difficulties it creates.
"It's difficult for us record-keeping-wise to establish a new rate," she said.
But he can donate the money to charity, she said. She said it is not the first time lawmakers have donated their per diem to charity but it is the first one she's heard about for this special session.
"I don't think it happens often," she said.
Weyhrauch, who opposed Murkowski's call for a special session, said he plans to donate the other half to the Boy Scouts, hospice and the battered women's shelter, AWARE.
"During the regular session, I already voted for POMV, with a split toward community dividends, funding for permanent fund dividend checks, and education," Weyhrauch said in a letter to Varni, returning the daily allowance check. "The special session did not produce a different result on these major issues."
Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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