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),
Charlie Stallworth (126th),
John Hennessy (127th),
Christopher Rosario (128th),
Steven Stafstrom (129th),
Ezequiel Santiago (130th),
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,