Legislators’ per diems may get a DC boost

INTRO TEXT Per diem payments for mileage, meals, and lodging for Bay State legislators have long been fodder for critics who see no justification for politicians dining out on the taxpayers’ dime. The payments range from $10 for lawmakers living in greater Boston to $90 for a member who lives in the far reaches of Berkshire County or on Martha’s Vineyard. (A Nantucket address would earn $100.)

That legislative perk could be getting even sweeter, however, thanks to a measure making its way through Congress.

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Gabrielle Gurley

Senior Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

Under a tax bill sponsored by the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Charles Rangel of New York, state lawmakers would be able to write off on their federal returns per diem payments for days their legislature is in formal or informal session. The IRS has claimed lawmakers are only eligible for the deduction on days when their legislature conducted official business.

According to The Washington Post, the measure was taken up by Rangel at the request of the National Conference of State Legislatures and included in a long list of “extenders” approved in November. Those are measures that must be renewed each year, but the Post reports that this one doesn’t extend anything, because it was not part of existing tax law.

Though a drop in the bucket of the $2.8 trillion federal budget, the write-off could cost $4 million. By mid December, the provision had passed the House and Senate and congressional leaders were tying up loose ends before sending the bill to the White House.