Assembly republicans considering giving representatives more money for expenses

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MADISON, Wis. (WEAU) -- Over the past decade we've all seen the cost of living skyrocket.

Wisconsin lawmakers are now considering giving themselves more money to get to the capitol to represent us.

Republicans in the State Assembly are behind the new push to raise their per diem rate.

It hasn't been raised in 11 years.

WEAU 13 News spoke with local assembly members about the increase.

Right now they can get $88 per day for food and lodging while they're in Madison on legislative business.

“The argument is that we're hearing the cost of living has increased so we need to address it in terms of the per diem level,” said democratic State Rep. Steve Doyle of Onalaska.

“It's something that should and could be looked at in the future,” said republican State Rep. Kathy Bernier of Chippewa Falls.

Representatives are paid $49,900 a year and get reimbursed for gas.

But Bernier said she often spends her own money traveling to Madison and to attend functions outside the capitol.

“I think that a lot of my constituents think that being a member of the Wisconsin Women in Government would be a good thing. But any memberships with any professional organization are paid for out of my pocket so that could probably be looked at as well,” Rep. Bernier said.

Some democrats feel republicans want the per diem increase as a way to pump up their salaries.

“There's a reason why we call it public service. And my feeling is we have to make a little bit of sacrifice to do our jobs. That’s what we're elected for,” Rep. Doyle said.

For the raise to happen it would have to be approved by a committee.
There wouldn't have to be any final approval from the full Assembly, Senate or Governor.

Both representatives WEAU talked to said giving themselves a raise may not bode well with voters.

“It's the perfectly wrong message at this time that we're asking everyone else to tighten their belts. It would be very hypocritical for us to say that we're exempt from that,” Rep. Doyle said.

“We have probably more important irons in the fire, truthfully,” Rep. Bernier said.

The Assembly is currently controlled by republicans so the increase would need support from GOP leadership to become a reality.

A message for incoming House Speaker Robin Vos was not returned.

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