The doors of the Alaska State Capitol were open Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, though the Alaska State Legislature was not in session. They will be soon, however, as Gov. Mike Dunleavy has called a fourth special session of the year. Lawmakers receive a per diem for days in session, and with so many special sessions those costs can add up. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Per diem for special sessions? It’s up to lawmakers

Even with Gov’s veto, lawmakers can find the money

They’ll have to move some money around to do it, but lawmakers will be able to pay themselves daily allowances known as per diems for all the Alaska State Legislature’s special sessions this year.

According to Legislative Finance Director Alexei Painter, there are a number of fund sources available to the Alaska State Legislature that can be used for per diem payments, the Legislature just has to decide if that’s what it wants to do. Lawmakers are responsible for maintaining the budget of the Legislature just like any other state department, Painter said, and can choose to redirect funds to other purposes.

“Basically, the Legislature has a management decision.” Painter said.

Earlier this year, Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed funds budgeted for per diems after lawmakers sent him a budget bill with only about $500 for a Permanent Fund Dividend, which he called “a slap in the face” to some Alaskans. Divisions in the Legislature have led to three special sessions already this year, with another set to begin Oct. 1.

The governor vetoed 120 days worth of per diem —the statutory length of a regular session —but Painter said lawmakers can simply choose to fund that expense using other funds, which was also true of the special session per diems.

[Health department: Data backlog drives high numbers for cases, deaths]

The Legislature typically budgets 30 days’ worth of special session per diem each year, said Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, who chairs the bicameral Legislative Council, but that money has been spent. Hannan told the Empire Friday the issue was discussed in a recent meeting and lawmakers are aware a decision will need to be made about where to find the funds.

The Alaska State Officers Compensation Commission sets salaries for legislators, according to the Legislative Affairs Agency, and this year’s per diem was $293.

“My anecdotal sense is that members who travel from out of town want that,” Hannan said of the payments.

Per diem payments are paid in addition to lawmakers’ salaries — this year $50,400 — and are meant to cover expenses for traveling to Juneau. As a Juneau resident, Hannan doesn’t receive the payments but said she’d likely support the payments as many lawmakers have to travel significant distances to reach the capital city.

“That’s one of the costs of having a citizen legislature,” Hannan said.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

More in News

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
COVID at a glance for Thursday, Oct. 14

The most recent state and local figures

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Friday, Oct. 15, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

The Juneau Police Department will hold a drug take-back day on Oct. 23, 2021 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., said the police in a news release. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Police to hold drug take-back day on Oct. 23

Last take-back event, the DEA collected 420 tons of unused or unwanted prescription medication.

Then-Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho, left, and former Juneau Representative Bill Hudson, right, speak with John Torgerson, chairman of the Alaska Redistricting Board during a break in hearing public testimony at the Capitol Wednesday, April 20, 2011.  Alaska’s state flags were lowered Thursday for longtime Alaska lawmaker, Hudson, who died Oct. 11. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
‘A large legacy’: Hudson remembered for dedication to Juneau and the state

Alaska’s state flags were lowered Thursday for longtime Alaska lawmaker Bill Hudson.

The author photographs one of the numerous bull moose he and his wife saw on an elk hunt in Wyoming. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)
I Went to the Woods: Desired vs. realized success

No elk taken, but it’s nothing to grouse about.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This photo shows gray currents, also called stink currants, Vivian Mork photographer. (Vivian Mork Yeilk’ / For the Capital City Weekly)
Planet Alaska: Picking currants and riding currents

We give respect and thanks to the berries and the birds as we harvest the last of the berries.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File
A Coast Guard aircrew aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk, like the one shown in this June photo, rescued a man from a stricken vessel in the Gulf of Alaska on Oct. 11, 2021.
Coast Guard rescues man from disabled vessel

The sailboat was southbound in the Gulf of Alaska

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
COVID at a glance for Tuesday, Oct. 12

The most recent state and local figures

Most Read