We spend significant time in this space exposing elected officials when they don’t act in the best interests of “we the people.” So, it’s only fair that we also make mention when they do the right thing.
Those mentions come today as we tip our caps to State Senator Joan Lovely (D-Salem), and State Rep. Leah Cole (R-Peabody). After all, it came to light last week that neither Mrs. Lovely nor Ms. Cole are bilking the taxpayers for one of the most-outrageous benefits received by most of the solons on Beacon Hill.
Neither Lovely, nor Cole take per diem (up to $18/day) for just commuting into the State House. According to state treasurer records, taxpayers gave lawmakers more than $300,000 in per diems last year. Think about that as you’re paying out of your own pocket to fill up your tank three times a week just to get to work.
So, thank you Senator Lovely and Rep. Cole …
But now, let’s consider the case of the “King of Per Diems.” The people of West Peabody are represented by a man who shamelessly took your money at a rate of $18 per day just to commute to work. Ted Speliotis, who never saw a tax increase he didn’t like, collected $3,510 of your money last year to make 195 trips into Boston. By the way, the solons get this reimbursement without needing to provide receipts. It’s all on the honor system. Of all of the North Shore lawmakers, Speliotis took the second largest overall per diem, but he was less than $80 out of first place!
With per diem, we essentially pay Mr. Speliotis, who faces a stiff challenge this fall from West Peabody resident Tom Lyons, more than $70K per year for what’s essentially a part-time job.
And just as an important aside here … this guy voted for the gas tax. Why wouldn’t he? We’re the ones filling his tank for free.
“We’re supposed to be working for the taxpayers, and most people don’t get paid to drive to work,” Ms. Cole told the Salem News last week. “But I only live about 20 minutes away, so it’s not a big deal.”
By the way, if you see Ted Speliotis in traffic on the way into work someday, make sure you don’t have any cash in your hands if you decide to wave. He might grab it.