GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – As state lawmakers continue to try to come to an agreement on a new budget, taxpayers are paying. The budget was supposed to be done July 1.
Lawmakers have already passed two temporary spending extensions, the most recent of which would keep the state funded until the end of August.
So far this summer, the legislature’s session has cost almost $1 million. On top of the $13,951 salary representatives receive, they also receive $104 in Per Diem each day. That means for a representative working five days a week and four weeks per month, they collect $2,080 in Per Diem every month.
With the session running longer than expected due to the budget not being passed, even more tax dollars are being spent.
“If they can’t pass the budget by the deadline, any money that’s left over should go back in to resources for the community and the state,” said Lenoir County resident Donna Vincent, who doesn’t believe lawmakers should continue taking this money.
Rep. Brian Brown of Pitt County said he is continuing to collect Per Diem because he is hard at work every day.
“As we continue to work, we certainly need to be able to be here and get that work done,” Brown said.
He said many Representatives wouldn’t be able to afford to stay in Raleigh to work without that Per Diem pay. He also said he would rather take his time with the budget to ensure it is right for North Carolina, than to rush through it and pass a budget that is bad for everyone.
“We need to ensure that the budget that is passed is not a budget that is a rushed budget, but that it’s a budget that takes a serious measured approach for what we are looking at for policy changes, for the budgetary output itself,” Brown said.
WNCT reached out to every Representative in the East, but only heard back from five. Of those, Rep. Brian Brown (R-Pitt), George Cleveland (R-Onslow), Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D-Pitt and Wilson), Phil Shepard (R-Onslow), and Michael Speciale (R-Beaufort, Craven, and Pamlico) all said they would continue to collect their Per Diem pay.
Rep. Speciale said taxpayers need to realize it is better to spend the money now to make sure it is a good budget, then to rush through things, which would cost everyone more in the long run.
Some in the East believe lawmakers shouldn’t be collecting anything now.
“For my job, I get paid when I go to work,” said Stephen Etter. “They seem to be getting paid when they’re not actually completing the task at hand, so that’s a little bit frustrating.”
Lawmakers have said they will stay and work on the budget for as long as necessary.