The salary for United States Senate and House of Representatives members is currently set at $174,000 which for just about anywhere in the country is very respectable, but are you familiar with the expense accounts available to Senate and House members? As is with government workers, it’s not always about the salary; you need to review the benefits.
Today, the Wall Street Journal has an oh-so-perfectly-timed Saturday story on House and Senate member government expense allowances which range between $1.3 million and $4.5 million per year. If they don’t use the allocated funds, they do not get to keep the money for the next year.
Of course, a significant portion of the allowance goes to staff salaries and travel, but read the full story in the WSJ to learn about some of the other big expenses.
Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings spent $24,730 in taxpayer money last year to lease a 2008 luxury Lexus hybrid sedan. Ohio Rep. Michael Turner expensed a $1,435 digital camera. Eni Faleomavaega, the House delegate from American Samoa, bought two 46-inch Sony TVs.
The expenditures were legal, properly accounted for and drawn from allowances the U.S. government grants to lawmakers. Equipment purchased with office expense accounts must be returned to the House or the federal General Services Administration when a lawmaker leaves office.
But as British politicians come under widening scorn for spending public money on everything from candy bars to moat-dredging, an examination of U.S. lawmakers’ expense claims shows Washington’s elected officials have also used public funds for eye-catching purchases.
If your wondering if expenses “increase” in the forth quarter of the year, you’d be barking up the right tree. Get this, staffers get bonuses.
The review showed that the increased year-end spending went not only toward equipment but also to fund year-end “bonuses” to aides. The average House aide earned 17% more in the fourth quarter of the year, when the bonuses were paid, than in previous quarters, according to an earlier Journal analysis. Payments ranged from a few hundred dollars to $14,000.
As Jim frequently notes, this does not seem like the definition of public service to me.