KATC Investigates

Nov 25, 2013 12:25 PM by Steven Albritton and Tina Macias

Legislators Paid Much More Than Base Salary

State lawmakers haven't tried to raise their salaries since 2008 when a plan to increase their pay to $37,500 sparked public outcry and disapproval. For now, legislators receive the same base pay they have since 1980, but the total payments they get from the state might actually be double or triple that number. We studied local legislator's supplemental pay and expenses billed to the state and the numbers may surprise you.

We asked two Louisiana legislators what their salary is for serving the state.

"$16,800 a year," Senator Elbert Guillory said.

"I tell them that we make $16,800 yearly. That's our salary, and we do make a per diem per committee meeting that we attend," Senator Fred Mills said.

$16,800 is the base pay but this represents only a portion of the true number. Throw in $6,000 for un-vouchered expenses and then add per diems paid for each day of the legislative session and meetings outside of the session; the average Acadiana legislature pay jumps on average to $54,000 annually.

Here's how they breakdown in order.

Representative Jack Montoucet - R - $66,006
Senator Fred Mills - R - $62,784
Senator Jonathon Perry - R - $59,404
Senator Patrick Cortez - R - $58,322
Representative Joel Robideaux - R - $55,678
Representative Nancy Landry - R - $53,508
Representative Stuart Bishop - R - $52,377
Representative Vincent Pierre - D - $50,586
Representative Taylor Barras - R - $50,337
Representative Terry Landry - D - $49,564
Representative Stephen Ortego - D - $49127
Senator Elbert Guillory - R - $45,263

See a full breakdown here.

We wanted to find out why their are gaps in pay. So we spoke to one of the highest and one of the lowest paid, Senator Fred Mills and Senator Elbert Guillory.

"We're very, very careful in how we spend taxpayers money. Handling taxpayers money is a sacred trust and we take that very seriously," Guillory said.

Guillory says he believes legislators should be paid two to three times more, but voted against raises in 2008. The newly Democrat turned Republican, opts to use his personal money for travel to Baton Rouge. He ranks last in reimbursements, lowering his overall salary. He points out cuts to seniors health care and cuts to higher education as reasons why he chooses this route.

"When we make those kinds of cuts, everyone needs to tighten their belts, and so the belt tightening starts with me," Guillory said.

On the other side of the coin, Senator Fred Mills says his pay is so high because he maintains two offices to fully serve his constituents.

"I'm just allocated expenses for one employee. I pay for two employees. So, the per diem payment goes to my employees," Mills said.

With offices in New Iberia and one in Parks, he has found giving his constituents options of where they can voice opinions and concerns, helps him hear their needs. He also makes the point to use his funds for much needed office upgrades.

"In my case, it's all being used for phones, computers, answering services, and constituent services. You know every dollar that we get we're using it to give constituent services," Mills said.

None of Acadiana's twelve legislators come close to the top paid legislators in the state. In 2012, seven were paid more than $80,000. The top three are:

Senator John Smith of Leesville - $92,958
Speaker of the House Chuck Kleckly from Lake Charles - $92,361.
Representative Jim Fanin of Jonesboro - $81,138.

LegislatorPay2012.pdf

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