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May 8, 2013

Legislators eye early adjournment


With an agreement in place on a $7.1 billion state budget and the governor’s signature already on several key legislative initiatives, Oklahoma lawmakers are beginning to suggest the 2013 legislative session might end early — a move that could save state taxpayers nearly $28,000 per day.
The Legislature is constitutionally required to adjourn by 5 p.m. on the last Friday in May — May 31 this year — but legislative leaders have suggested they could wrap up their work a week, or even two, before then.
“At this point in the session, with top legislative priorities on the governor’s desk awaiting her signature and a tentative budget agreement reached, it’s becoming more likely that the Legislature will be able to finish this session before the constitutional May 31st deadline,” said Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “And while it is still too early to know exactly when legislative business will conclude, we know each day the Legislature doesn’t meet saves taxpayer resources. That’s a goal we are continually working toward.”
The House and Senate would realize significant savings, mostly in the form of travel reimbursements and per diem for members who live more than 50 miles from the Capitol. In the 101-member House, per diem and mileage reimbursement alone total more than $10,500 each day. The cost of salaries for session-only employees, a program for high school pages and the $60 daily fee for the House chaplain of the day bring the total daily cost of the House session to nearly $20,000 each day, according to information provided by the House comptroller.
In the 48-member Senate, the session costs about $7,600 each day. This includes about $5,200 for per diem and mileage reimbursement, $1,600 for hourly session employees, and about $800 for the page program, which covers lodging and stipends for about 10 pages each week.
Lawmakers earn a base salary of $38,400, although members in leadership positions earn more. 

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