Per diems are paid regardless of whether the legislators actually incurred the expense. The payments are included on their paychecks.
Several legislators â€” including some from rural areas â€” 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.
â€œI'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,â€ Reynolds said. â€œI'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.â€
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.
â€œThe story that's always said around the Capitol is Thursday is so the guys can collect their per diem,â€ 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.
â€œIt's a lot of wear and tear on your vehicle,â€ Bingman said.