A state senator in California has collected $306,000 for the hardship of living within running distance from his job. The Los Angeles Times reports that Tom McClintock, who claims to live in his district a couple hundred miles from the capital, actually resides full-time with his family in Elk Grove, a mere 14 miles from Sacramento. Yet he still takes advantage of per diem payments meant for lawmakers who must pay for transportation and lodgings while the legislature is in session. Patrick McGreevey reports:
Overall, McClintock has received $306,000 in per diem while living in Elk Grove during his eight years in the Senate and previous four years in the Assembly. Last year, the senator collected $36,012 in per diem, a record amount for him.
Per diem paid to a legislator whose home is within 50 miles of the Capitol building is considered taxable income. Since he is citing Thousand Oaks as his home, McClintock has taken the money tax-free, atop his annual Senate salary of $116,000.
The receipt of the money by McClintock, while not illegal, is striking because his political career has been fueled by unrelenting opposition to government spending. Several of his unsuccessful campaigns for statewide office have centered on curtailing state spending. McClintock has spared no one, even fellow Republicans such as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in decrying bloated budgets.
Per diem payments have long been one of the most cherished perks of state lawmakers, and CommonWealth's Gabrielle Gurley reported in December on federal legislation to make them tax-free.