Bill Boosts Expense Payments for Legislators by 50 Percent

MARCH 1, 2007 - Posted at 7:53 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK (AP) - Consumer costs around the nation have risen by about 26 percent since 1997, when expense-reimbursement rates for lawmakers were last set. But a bill submitted to the Legislature would boost those expense rates by 50 percent.

The bill's sponsor, Senator Shawn Womack of Mountain Home, said the bill would provide inflation adjustments for the expenses, unchanged since 1997. He said legislative staffers estimated that expense payments fell behind by 47 percent over that time, so his bill would put legislators slightly ahead for a year.

However, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the national consumer price index -- which measures the average change in the prices of goods and services -- had risen by about 26 percent between 1997 and yesterday.

Asked about the difference, Womack said he'd have to have an economist explain the bill's figures.

Under the bill, the maximum allowable expense payment to legislators would rise to $14,400 a year, up from $9,600. Womack said those payments go toward renting office space, buying supplies and having telephone and data lines.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)