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Oklahoma legislators receive $2.5 million on top of salaries over two years

During the legislative session, Oklahoma law affords weekly mileage reimbursements for travel to the Capitol for all Oklahoma legislators and per diem payments for lodging, meals and travel for legislators living more than 50 miles from the Capitol.
BY JOHN ESTUS Modified: November 19, 2010 at 10:25 am •  Published: November 19, 2010

Oklahoma legislators can also get small per diems during the summer.

Per diems are paid regardless of whether the legislators actually incurred the expense. The payments are included on their paychecks.

Several legislators — including some from rural areas — declined to discuss the payments or didn't return calls Thursday.

Sen. Jim Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, who doesn't receive a per diem, said covering legislators' costs to come to the Capitol helps make the Legislature more diverse. He said cutting per diems and travel reimbursements may discourage some from serving.

“I'm afraid you would end up with the only people from the rural areas who could run would be the ones who are extremely wealthy,” Reynolds said. “I'm proud that we have the kind of Legislature that can at least pay guys enough that they can come down, and we get a wide variety of professions here.”

Reynolds said a better idea may be cutting the Legislature's workweek during the session to three days rather than four. Reynolds said legislators often leave early on Thursdays.

“The story that's always said around the Capitol is Thursday is so the guys can collect their per diem,” Reynolds said.

Bingman, who is from Sapulpa, gets a per diem during the session. He is one of several legislators who uses some of the money to rent an apartment in Oklahoma City during the session.

Bingman said his 3-year-old car already has more than 100,000 miles on it because of legislative travel.

“It's a lot of wear and tear on your vehicle,” Bingman said.


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