In Newman not ready for new office, Andrew Broman reports:
There is much ado at the State Capitol about the newly construction $90 million Senate Office Building, but Sen. Scott Newman of Hutchinson says he’s mostly concerned about logistics. . . .
Newman also objects to a large increase in parking fees, from his current $50 per month amount to $162 per month at the new office buildings. He said he doesn’t know if he can keep his current parking spot, and then walk over to the new building.
“I’ll be darned if I (have to pay) $162 a month to park my car at the Senate Office Building,” he said, noting he makes $31,000 a year as a legislator.
Well, that's not entirely the case.
According to the Frequently Asked Questions page on the Minnesota State Legislature's website:
A Legislator's salary is $31,140 per year (see the House Research Department publication State Elected Officials Compensation). They are also allowed to collect a per diem for living and travel expenses seven days a week during the regular legislative session.
Minnesota Public Radio's Catherine Richert reported in Legislator 2015 per diem reaches nearly $1.8 million that Senator Newman received $11,438.00 in per diem for the 2015 session. This is the full amount he could receive:
Senators earn $86 per day during session. Twenty-six senators requested the full amount of $11,438.
Sen. Melissa Wiklund, DFL-Bloomington, collected $7,912 for the session, putting her at the bottom of the list in the Senate.
Legislators can stipulate when and how much they collect. For instance, Wiklund collected no per diem on the weekends during this session, as well as nine days between March and April.
Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, collects only $80 per day and nothing on Sundays.
The Minnesota state senate has 67 members when it's at full strength. In July, MinnPost's Briana Bierschbach noted in The high cost of being a Minnesota legislator that some senators and representatives can collect a housing allowance. According to a 2010 document online at the Secretary of the Senate:
Housing: Greater Minnesota members (those residing more than 50 miles one way from the Capitol) receive a housing allowan ce to a maximum of $1,200 per month for rent and related expenses both during session and the interim. Leases must be filed in Fiscal Servic es to receive this allowance.
Hutchinson is beyond the minimum distance from the state capitol, but it's possible that Senator Newman makes the commute every day during the session--or that the housing allowance, like the per diem, has changed since 2010. Newman can also collect mileage. (These payments became an issue for Torrey Westrom during his 2014 congressional bid; after the NRCC attacked Collin Peterson for similar expenses for congressional business, the DFL slashed back by revealing payments the Elbow Lake lawmaker).
Finally, there's another source of reimbursement for Minnesota lawmakers: they are able to pay for certain costs of serving in office from their campaign committees. In 2013, Newman reimbursed himself $3,691.75 for mileage and other expenses (since he ran for attorney general in 2014, there's little activity in his senate campaign committee report for that year).
Newman's crying poor mouth about parking rates seems a bit of drama when his total compensation package is added up. According to Doug Belden's report last year in the Pioneer Press, State Sen. Scott Newman to run for attorney general, Newman, now in his late 60s, "is listed in state records as retired and not authorized to practice law."
Photo: The new state senate legislative office building.
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