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House delegates will get over $800K for expenses this year

March 3, 2021 GMT

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Members of Virginia’s House of Delegates have collectively racked up more than $800,000 in per diem stipends that cover expenses that include travel and food.

The Virginian-Pilot reported Tuesday that the payments have been a frequent source of partisan debate because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some House Republicans have said it’s wrong to accept stipends for expenses while working virtually. And three Republicans — Kirk Cox, Nick Freitas and Bobby Orrock — have said they won’t receive them.

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But some Democrats have pointed out that the money is subject to income taxes this year. That’s opposed to years past when the expenses were considered nontaxable reimbursement for most lawmakers.

House delegates are paid a salary of $17,640 a year. They also get expenses of $211 a day during the legislative session. The money is intended to cover lodging, meals and incidentals.

The money is non-taxable for members who live more than 50 miles from Richmond. And it’s taxable for members who live closer because they can theoretically sleep at home.

Elizabeth Mancano, a spokeswoman for the clerk of the House, said the payments during virtual sessions are taxable because no travel is required. Delegates also get $1,250 per month year round for office expenses.

Mancano said the average delegate got $8,651 in per diem payments for the regular session as well as the special session that followed.