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Four Democratic Senators announce bill to suspend per diem pay for legislators during pandemic

Sens. Maria Collett (D-12 Montgomery/Bucks), Tim Kearney (D-26 Delaware/Chester), Katie Muth (D-44 Berks/Chester/Montgomery) and Lindsey M. Williams (D-38 Allegheny County) have introduced a bill memo for co-sponsorship to suspend per diem payments to members of the General Assembly through the duration of the COVID-19 emergency declaration.

Per diem payments are daily allowances intended to cover travel, lodging, meals and other expenses for legislators when traveling to Harrisburg on session days or outside of their district on legislative business. Legislators can opt in or out of per diem payments. A temporary, unanimously passed rule change allows senators to participate in session remotely, eliminating the need to travel to Harrisburg and receive per diem for related expenses.

“As public servants, we have no higher duty than to stand with and support our constituents through challenging circumstances,” said Collett. “This small sacrifice will ensure that legislators aren’t collecting money that may go to better use, and working remotely – something so many Pennsylvanians are being asked to do – will help keep legislators, their staff, and their communities safe from potential COVID-19 exposure.”

"At a time when more than one million Pennsylvanians are unemployed, state lawmakers should be setting an example by suspending per diems,” said Kearney. Added Muth, “This is the very least public officials, who have had a paycheck the entire pandemic, can do.”

Participating members of the General Assembly are paid $178 per day on per diem, and suspending these payments would free up hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money during an unprecedented public health and economic crisis. This legislation would prohibit per diem payments until the Governor’s Disaster Declaration related to COVID-19 has ended. None of the prime sponsors of this bill receive a per diem.