When Legislators Book Mileage To Pad Pensions

With an assist from Republican Ethan Book, multiple state legislative candidate, the Hartford Courant’s John Lender, see here, has highlighted a dubious way for lawmakers to pad their pensions via mileage allowances. Some take advantage of this practice, some don’t. It’s a perk that could be on the legislative chopping block. From Lender:

More than a dozen bills have been introduced in the General Assembly that may finally eliminate two taxpayer-funded perks enjoyed by state legislators involving mileage allowances they receive each month.

Perk No. 1 is lawmakers’ ability to count those mileage payments as income when calculating their pensions.

Perk No. 2 is their eligibility to receive those mileage payments even when they’re passengers in someone else’s car and aren’t driving themselves. Yeah, you read that right. The law says they can get mileage payments even when they’re not driving.

… Meanwhile, the mileage issue is very much alive for Ethan Book, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the 128th House District seat in Bridgeport. Book, who lost to incumbent Rep. Christopher Rosario, D-Bridgeport, obtained state payment records via a Freedom of Information Act request on Rosario and five other Democrats representing nearby districts. He sent them an email in recent days that said: “It has been commented to me that several of you are carpooling and that you avail yourselves to a loophole in state statutes which permits you to be reimbursed, not just for miles driven, but rather also for miles transported to and from official activities. Who of you does this?” Book, who said he hadn’t received any replies as of Friday, also cited a Facebook post from November showing McCarthy Vahey driving a car with three other local representatives in it. “The carpool crew is back! Heading to the Capitol,” the caption said.

McCarthy Vahey said Wednesday that she only puts in for the mileage allowance on days when she drives, and she’s “putting the wear and tear on my vehicle.” Another lawmaker in that picture, Rep. Steven Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, said, “I don’t generally put in for mileage for carpooling.” Asked if he’d ever done so, he said, “I can’t recall a time I’ve done it,” but he added: “I don’t think mileage should count toward people’s pensions.” Another carpooler in the picture, Rep. Joe Gresko, D-Stratford, said, “I’d say there were about five, or a week’s worth, of times when I didn’t drive but I put it in for it”–but only after checking with the Legislative Management office that it was OK. “After the story came out, we stopped doing it” because of the public reaction, Gresko said. “So it was a valid point that was brought up,” he said, adding: “I am also a proponent of doing away with that travel reimbursement toward the pension.

Ethan Book’s letter.

Hello, Representatives Baker, Stallworth, Hennessy, Rosario, Stafstrom and Santiago,

I just received of the Office of Legislative Management information regarding your compensation, stipends and mileage allowance for 2017 and 2018. For the two years, I provide here the annual averages for categories of (a) base pay, (b) unvouchered expense allowance, and (c) mileage allowance. The figures follow:

Andre Baker (124th),
a) $32,214
b) $4,500
c) $2,746

Charlie Stallworth (126th),
a) $34,354
b) $4,500
c) $2,278

John Hennessy (127th),
a) $32,241
b) $4,500
c) $4,804

Christopher Rosario (128th),
a) $32,241
b) $4,500
c) $4,465

Steven Stafstrom (129th),
a) $32,241
b) $4,500
c) $4,625

Ezequiel Santiago (130th),
a) $34,446
b) $4,500
c) $4,577

It has been commented to me that several of you are carpooling and that you avail yourselves to a loophole in state statutes which permits you to be reimbursed, not just for miles driven, but rather also for miles transported to and from official activities. Who of you does this?

Please reply fully and promptly!

With kind regards,

Ethan Book

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12 comments

  1. Ethan Book,
    Great Work! This is a legitimate issues and thanks for raising the issue AND taking your question directly to state legislators. IMHO, there should be compensation for the driver ONLY and NONE of it should go towards pension accrual. I don’t under why our new Governor,Ned Lamont, and the new State General Assembly,both houses controlled by Democrats,can’t make the right decision and do it ASAP. There are plenty of tough decisions to make and this is not one of the. The proviso that mileage can be compensated while being a passenger and that mileage compensation should used to figure pension compensation(especially considering the pension liability that CT has) should be “sacrificed” by State legislators as they tackle a long list of issues that they need to deal with.

  2. *** This is just another reason why there should be term limits for all state elected politicians. They have far too many perks that come back to bite state tax payers in the derby! But who’s going to write-up a bill, bring it to committee for review & vote, etc… the same state politicians the bill would affect? I wonder how many ex-state politicians get some type of state pension that really don’t deserve it? Wonder how much the state spends on ex-state elected politicians that get some type of pension? Tax payers would be shocked if they knew I bet. ***

  3. Frank, this isn’t great work because these are just numbers without any context. Are the figures that Ethan quotes out of the ordinary, are they higher than other legislators, are they exorbitant compared to republican legislators or are they just partisan bullshit meant to inflame and confuse?

    Frank, you’re to sharp to buy into this Republican blasphemy which if I need to remind you is from a candidate who got his ass kicked in the last election. PLEASE!

    1. Mr. Donald Day,
      Thank you for your thoughts. I will inquire further. I do realize Mr.Ethan Book is a “Bridgeport Republican.” However,he is at the front lines and I respect that. I respect anyone and everyone(including you,Mr.Day) who engages for the heart and soul of Bridgeport. I do realize that Mr. Book lost in his bid for State Rep. election but that was not surprising. My overall feeling feeling is the (Democrats) Governor Lamont,the Democratic Majority General Assembly,should just get rid of this issue.

    2. Well, it is showing people taking advantage of a bed rule that reimburses you for riding in a car. By calling them out they will stop doing it and hopefully work to change the rule. I agree people throughout the state should do the same thing Ethan did. He may be a Republican, but not all R’s are bad and not all D’s are good. Anyone who has power is susceptible to be corrupted by it. To what degree is the question.

  4. The Connecticut Post did an in-depth report of all expenses associated with the Connecticut State Legislature two or three years ago. Connecticut has one of the highest cost legislative bodies in the union.

  5. Frank, Ethan mentions Representatives Baker, Stallworth, Hennessy, Rosario, Stafstrom and Santiago and doesn’t show any evidence whatsoever that any of these individuals misused the transportation reimbursement policy. He insinuated and intimated that they misused the system by using their names and then telling how others misused the system thus incriminating them by association, which is wrong, immoral and unjust.

    Now I’m not saying that the Bridgeport delegation mentioned don’t misuse the system, but if they are then he needs to show how they are and not besmirch their reputation by calling attention to others who are misusing the system for their benefit. He’s simply saying because a few are thieves then they all must be thieves without the benefit of proof or evidence.

  6. Ethan Book has a tendency to base his remarks on innuendos and overheard conversations.
    The CT Post in a more recent article shared the details of mileage reimbursement policy which the Bridgeport delegation made maximum use of.
    In this case, Ethan Book did his homework and references actual data.
    Thank you, Dr Petitt, for attempting to address this well-known abuse.
    Will his bill survive and be adopted by the Connecticut legislature? Slim chance.

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