JACKSON — Mississippi spent nearly $7.5 million for salaries and expenses of state lawmakers during the 11 months that ended in early April, according to a new report from the state auditor’s office.
That breaks down to nearly $5.2 million for the House of Representatives and $2.3 million for the Senate.
The report is dated June 7 but was released to the public yesterday. It covers expenses from May 4, 2012, the end of that year’s regular legislative session; through April 7, 2013, the end of this year’s session.
When all seats are filled, the House has 122 members and the Senate has 52. There were several vacancies during the past year because of deaths or resignations, and several lawmakers received significantly lower than average compensation because they served only part of the 11 months.
Because of a quirk in state law, the presiding officer of the House, the speaker, is paid more than the presiding officer of the Senate, the lieutenant governor.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves of Brandon was paid $77,185 during the 11 months, which was $67,000 in salary and $10,185 in expenses. House Speaker Philip Gunn of Clinton was paid $93,127, which was $75,625 in salary and $17,502 in expenses.
The president pro tempore of the Senate, Terry Brown of Columbus, was paid $60,973 during the 11 months, which was $35,750 in salary and $25,223 in expenses. The House speaker pro tempore, Greg Snowden of Meridian, was paid $55,124, which was $35,750 in salary and $19,374 in expenses.
Each rank-and-file lawmaker who served the full 11 months was paid $22,000 in salary — $10,000 for the three months they were in session and $12,000 for the eight months they were out of session.
The report shows that lawmakers who live farther from Jackson generally were compensated more for expenses because they were paid for more miles driven.
Excluding the presiding officers, the total compensation House members who served the entire period, including salaries and expenses, ranged from a low of $31,296 by Rep. Cecil Brown of Jackson, who lives just a few miles from the Capitol; to a high of $58,323, by Rep. Donnie Bell of Fulton, who lives about 225 miles away.
For the Senate, the range was a low of $34,553 for Sen. Tommy Gollott of Biloxi to a high of $56,105 to Sen. Nickey Browning of Pontotoc.
Lawmakers receive the same mileage reimbursement as federal employees: It was 55.5 cents a mile until December and has been 56.5 cents per mile since January.
Being a legislator in Mississippi is considered a part-time job. During the first year of a four-year term, they’re in regular session from early January until early May. During the other three years, they’re in regular session from early January until early April. They’re also sometimes called into special sessions by the governor.