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Compensation and Reimbursement Policies of the Arkansas Legislature

BY STATE REPRESENTATIVE NATE BELL –

The legislative session is currently at a standstill as a small minority of House members continue to block passage of my negotiated deal on the “private option.” The Senate passed the proposal with the required 75% affirmative vote last week and I expect it to finally pass the House this week.

Without much additional session news to report I’ve decided to explain how members of the legislature are compensated and reimbursed for expenses incurred. The topic of legislator compensation is often subjected to misinformation.  Our salaries are quite low but travel is expensive and legislators who are actively participating in policy development and the interim committee process will expend quite a bit of money in the process.

Arkansas legislators receive an annual salary of $15,869. I pay $66.12 per month into the Arkansas Public Employee Retirement System. I am ineligible for a pension from legislative service and will be repaid my contributions when I leave office.  I put $100 per month into a health savings account. I pay $92.20 per month as the employee portion of payment for Bronze Health Insurance. My net pay per month is $965.15. My annual net pay is $12,769.08

Members are reimbursed for travel costs and receive the IRS daily per diem reimbursement rate for travel expenses incurred when traveling within the state.  Travel outside the state is based on actual expenses incurred with each travel request requiring specific approval by the Speaker of the House.  I am reimbursed at a reduced mileage rate as I have requested that I receive no increases in my mileage reimbursement rate until all state employees are at the same rate as legislators. Our part of the state and the northwest tend to be consistently among the highest overall expenses and this has been true for many years.  Members who are actively involved in policy development and who live a long distance from the Capitol tend to have some of the highest expenses.  Former Rep. Abernathy was usually in the top two or three members in overall expenses incurred and I am usually in the top few as well.

In addition to travel expense reimbursements, legislators are also reimbursed for expenses incurred in serving our constituents.  These reimbursements are handled via an IRS accountable plan and we are reimbursed only for expenses incurred.  All reimbursements are reviewed by a CPA for compliance and are also subject to regular FOIA requests from both media and the public. I submit these reimbursement requests semi-annually.

I’ll have more to report from the legislative session next week.  Until then, please feel free to contact me at any time with concerns or ideas. I appreciate those who take the time to contact me. My e-mail address is nate.bell@arkansashouse.org and my cell number for call or text is 479-234-2092.

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