Auditor releases annual report on costs of Legislature

JACKSON — Just like any business or state agency, the Mississippi Legislature needs supplies, staff and equipment to operate. Lawmakers need coffee to jump-start the day.

From April 12, 2011 to May 3 of this year, it took $22,056 of coffee and $13,406 of bottled water to wet the whistles of legislators, staff members and just about any member of the public who wandered through the Capitol.

Lawmakers also spent $2,600 with Magnolia Clipping Service to see what their hometown papers were writing about them. Other costs involve computer system upkeep, including lawmakers’ laptops; printing supplies; and similar expenses.

And while leaders are trying to keep the job part-time as envisioned, many acknowledge that the citizen Legislature has become more of a full-time responsibility.

Overall, it cost taxpayers $20.6 million to run the Legislature for the 13-month period ending May 3, according to the annual report released by the state auditor’s office. The previous 13 months, it was $18.5 million.

The 2011 session was 90 calendar days. The 2012 session, the first of a new four-year term, ran 125 calendar days.

The latest figure includes more than $12.4 million in salaries, expenses and benefits for members of the Legislature. The previous 13 months the figure was $11.4 million.

There was one special session during the period.

The two chambers spent $70,980 to pay pages who run errands during the session. The young people are paid $150 each for a week’s work. Other costs were for insurance, Social Security, retirement and other expenses.

The report, which overlapped the 2011 election, showed payments for two speakers of the House and two lieutenant governors.

Phil Bryant, now governor, was paid $52,932 for the period he was lieutenant governor — April 12, 2011 to Jan. 5 of this year. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves received $25,868 from Jan. 5 to May 31.

House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, who did not run for re-election, was paid $52,075 in salary from April 12, 2011 to Dec. 21, 2011. New House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, was paid $47,903 in salary from January through May 31.

The salaries for the second-in-commands also went to two in the House and two in the Senate.

House Speaker Pro Tempore J.P. Compretta, D-Bay St. Louis, who did not run for re-election, was paid $22,000 in salary. His successor, Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, was paid $29,781 in salary.

Senate President Pro Tempore Billy Hewes III, R-Gulfport, who lost a bid for lieutenant governor, earned a salary of $22,075. New Senate pro tempore Terry W. Brown, R-Columbus, made $29,781 in salary.

Lawmakers were also reimbursed 51 cents a mile for driving between April 12, 2011 and April 16 of this year. The mileage reimbursement went up to 55 cents per mile beginning April 17.

Lawmakers’ annual earnings vary, based on regular and special sessions and meetings between sessions.

Legislators earn a $10,000 base salary with $1,500 monthly in interim pay when the Legislature is not in session. Lawmakers’ pay for special sessions is $75 a day. They are paid $40 a day while attending committee meetings.

Legislators haven’t seen a salary increase since 1986, when the base pay went to $10,000. Their monthly allowance has been the same since 1997, when it went from $800 to $1,500 for each month out of session.

The lieutenant governor and speaker of the House are paid $60,000 a year. The speaker also gets his $10,000 annual legislative salary. Both received the $1,500 a month out-of-session allowance.

The number two leaders in both houses are paid $14,000 a year along with their $10,000 annual legislative salary and the $1,500 a month out-of-session allowance.

 

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