“I move that Legislative Council authorize per diem payments retroactive to May 16, 1019, for the days in which members were physically present in Juneau for the first special session of the 31st Alaska State Legislature.” — Rep. Louise Stutes, making a motion to Legislative Council.
And so, the Alaska Legislature has decided to pay itself retroactively for the time it has spent over the past 30 days in Juneau.
As it was explained by a Megan Wallace, director of Legal Services, Alaska Statute says that legislators are not entitled to per diem payments after the 121st day until the first day that the Legislature passes a fully funded operating budget.
“It does not prevent this body from taking action to provide retroactive payments. The language says it is not to be paid until after the budget is passed,” Wallace explained. Wiggle room, in other words.
Rep. Tammie Wilson said she could not support it: “I know what the intent of the legislation was…It not ambiguous in my mind.”
Sen. Bert Stedman argued that many younger members of the Legislature have families and can’t afford to cover the costs of staying in Juneau.
All members voted in favor of it except Rep. Wilson of North Pole and Rep. DeLena Johnson of Palmer.
One insider in the Capitol observed that the Legislature just awarded itself between $6,000 and $9,000 per diem but a majority of them voted against a full statutorily determined Permanent Fund dividend of $3,000 for Alaskans.
Per diem is calculated differently at different times of year. The Legislature uses the federal per diem rate, which is higher between May and October in Juneau.