money

By DON THOMPSON and JUDY LIN – Associated Press
Friday, Jan. 18, 2013 | 12:33 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California lawmakers adjourned Friday for the long holiday weekend, but they will keep getting daily expense payments even while they’re not in Sacramento.

Lawmakers adjusted their normal schedules to hold floor sessions on Friday and Tuesday to keep qualifying for the per diems. They typically meet Monday and Thursday.

Those who live outside the Sacramento area are paid $142 a day for expenses so long as the Legislature does not take a break for more than three days. Switching the schedules will cost taxpayers about $65,000 to cover the four days starting Friday.

For most of the Legislature’s 120 members, the payments add about $30,000 a year to the nation’s highest legislative salaries. California lawmakers are paid a base salary of $90,525 despite taking a 5 percent pay cut this year, though unlike lawmakers in some other states they do not receive pensions.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said the schedule swap is justified because members’ expenses, like renting a second home in Sacramento, don’t disappear when the members leave town.

“The per diem is not some, you know, bonus. It’s to cover living expenses,” said Steinberg, a Democrat who doesn’t collect per diem because he lives in Sacramento.

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