Alaska legislators approve retroactive per diems, missed during special session

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Alaska lawmakers approved retroactive per diem payments that weren’t paid during the first special session.

House Bill 44, passed in 2018, contained a provision that if an operating budget had not passed during the regular session, lawmakers would not be eligible to receive the payments until the budget passed during a special session.

Megan Wallace, the director of Legislative Legal Services, said the law did not prevent lawmakers from approving retroactive payments once a budget had passed.

A compromise operating budget passed through the Legislature on Monday, the 26th day of the first special session.

The Alaska Legislative Council, a special committee of 14 legislators that meets outside session, convened four hours after the Legislature adjourned.

The committee voted 12-2 to approve payments of those missed per diems, valued at $302 per day for lawmakers who live at least 50 miles away from the State Capitol.

Republican Reps. Tammie Wilson and Delena Johnson voted against the motion with Wilson saying HB 44 was clear that members should not receive per diems until a budget passed during a special session.

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, spoke in favor of paying out the missed payments. He said not paying per diems could become a political tool; lawmakers could be incentivized to push a budget into a special session, knowing that some members would be financially strained and miss votes.

“I don’t want to see us restrict membership of the Legislature to retired financially set Alaskans,” he said, describing that per diems help ensure any Alaskan can serve in government.

Stedman added that per diems are optional and that lawmakers who don’t want them, don’t need to file for them.

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