ST. PETERS, Mo. – Rep. Robert Cornejo will donate his per diem from the upcoming special session to a local charity for senior benefits.
The representative, who announced his bid to run for House Speaker last week, said in an email message to supporters and constituents that he would be giving the money he earns for attendance in next week’s special session to the St. Peters Senior Center and the Mid-East Area Agency on Aging.
“I look forward to returning to the Capitol to work on more legislation that will help the people of Missouri,” he said. “However, I want the people of our state to know that I will not be profiting from this special session and will instead be giving my per diem back to the community.”
Cornejo added that his choice of a senior center was no accident, citing that he had serious concerns about the passage of a controversial bill to maintain the circuit breaker tax credit. The bill is designed to fund the program that helps seniors and the disabled across the state live independently via a fund sweep.
“The House worked hard to properly fund senior care programs, but I am concerned about the constitutionality of the Senate version of HCB3 and I am afraid that thousands of seniors across the state could find it more difficult to receive the assistance they need,” Cornejo said.
A legislator’s per diem amounts to $104 per day of taxpayer funds, so assuming the session goes a week, the St. Peters Senior Center and Mid-East Area Agency on Aging will see an extra $520 in their coffers.
But that cost adds up for the entire General Assembly. When the legislature is full, it contains 34 senators and 163 representatives. One day’s worth of per diems is just over $20,000 for the entire body, and for a five-day week that amounts to just over $102,000 at the cost to taxpayers, just in per diems.
However, the House and Senate rules allow for that cost to be significantly lower in actuality. Legislators only get a per diem when they sign into the journal, and most members of the legislature are likely to sign in for just one day in next week’s special session: Wednesday, when the whole body actually convenes. Members of the House Rules – Administrative Oversight Committee, which will hear the bill, will have two days of per diem. The actual cost of the special session in the House should more closely match that $20,000 figure.
Yet it remains to be seen if the special session will last just that one day, with Sens. Rob Schaaf, Gary Romine and Doug Libla all apparently set to continue their opposition to the bill, allegedly because the special session call from Gov. Eric Greitens allows for the Public Service Commission to give Ameren more leverage to set rates even outside just the intended goal of giving a good deal to the steel smelter in Southeast Missouri.