A few Arkansas Republican legislators are kicking off the new fiscal year right by declining a planned increase in mileage reimbursements. With the start of the new state fiscal year on July 1, lawmaker reimbursements are set to increase from 51 cents per mile to 55.5 cents per mile, the new federal standard rate as dictated by the IRS.
Other state employees are reimbursed at a lower rate of 42 cents per mile, as set by the Dept. of Finance and Administration. Some lawmakers have noted the disparity and are asking that the slated increase for legislators be rolled back to the 51 cent rate.
Rep. Nate Bell from Mena says he intends to refuse the increase, and he’s encouraging other legislators to decline the boost, as well. Minority Leader John Burris is behind the effort, and he sent the following e-mail to Speaker of the House Robert Moore:
First, let me say that I appreciate your leadership on leading the discussion on highway financing. While we have disagreed on some of the proposed policy changes, your willingness to lead the discussion has been essential.
Regarding our legislative reimbursement for mileage, we all recently received notification that our reimbursement rate will increase from the current $.51 per mile to $.55 per mile effective July 1, 2011. All other state employees are reimbursed at $.42 per mile. The cost to a Legislator to travel a mile is not greater than the cost to a state employee. I believe we should not be receiving increases in reimbursements when necessary programs and services struggle to find much needed funds.
I believe this is a good opportunity for the House to lead by example.
Several members of the Republican Caucus have contacted me stating their opposition to this increase. Because of this, I will be sending notification of my decision to refuse the increase to House staff next week.
Burris says he’s heard from various members of the caucus who support the rollback: “Nobody has said they disagree so far,” he says. “We’re in the process of working with the speaker to see if there’s a way to work it out.”
Of course, if that doesn’t work they could also just fill in fewer miles on their expense reports.