, Salem, MA

Local News

June 23, 2014

Lawmakers' travel perk eases commute

Lawmakers have had their salaries cut in recent years, but many still collect a benefit that pays them just to commute to work.

The state gave more than $300,000 to lawmakers traveling to Boston last year, according to records kept by state Treasurer Steve Grossman’s office. Payments, tied to how far a legislator lives from the capital, ranged from $10 per day for those commuting from Greater Boston to $90 per day for some in Western Massachusetts and Cape Cod.

State law entitles lawmakers to collect the taxpayer-funded reimbursement for each day they go to the Statehouse on official business. Not all accept the per diem payment, and not all seek reimbursement each time they travel.

On the North Shore, Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, led the pack among lawmakers north of Boston who took advantage of the perk. He was paid $3,952 on top of his $61,133 base salary last year, or $26 for each of 178 days he commuted from Cape Ann in 2013.

Tarr was the only local senator who took the per diem.

Rep. Ted Speliotis wasn’t far behind. The Danvers Democrat was paid $3,510 for 195 commutes to Boston, or $18 per trip.

House Republican minority leader Bradley Jones Jr., of North Reading, collected $3,042 for 169 trips at $18 a day.

Other local legislators who received the benefit were Rep. John Keenan, D-Salem, $1,674 for 93 days, and Rep. Jerry Parisella, D-Beverly, $1,314 for 73 days.

Rep. Rep. Lori Ehrlich, a Marblehead Democrat, has to date claimed only $648 for 36 trips at $19 a day, but lawmakers can claim travel expenses up to a year after they are incurred. In 2012, Ehrlich collected $2,016 for 112 trips.

Rep. Brad Hill, an Ipswich Republican, hasn’t claimed travel expenses for 2013. But he got $3,078 for 171 trips the previous year.

Lawmakers in the region who didn’t take a per diem include Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, and Rep. Leah Cole, R-Peabody.

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