Boston Herald – Senate President-in-waiting Stanley Rosenberg is months away from ascending to his presumptive perch in the upper chamber, but he’s donned a new crown in the meantime: Per diem king, according to a Herald review of state records that show the Amherst Democrat took in nearly $13,000 in travel stipends last year.
Rosenberg said his whopping $12,840 bill — the highest travel expenses filed by a legislator thus far for 2013 — even shocked him, prompting him to consider leasing a car through his campaign account in lieu of taking the oft-criticized perk when he is expected to succeed Therese Murray as Senate president next year.
Murray has steered clear of taking per diems, and instead covers a $682.65 monthly lease to get to Beacon Hill with campaign contributions, according to finance records.
“This is absolutely the highest ever (for me) and I was really surprised when I saw it,” said Rosenberg, who last year staked claim to having the votes to replace Murray atop the Senate. “You’re just powering through and going day by day and week by week and before you know it, the year is over and you say, ‘Wow.’”
At $60 a trip, Rosenberg put in for 214 days of travel to and from the State House last year, the most filed by any legislator in the House or Senate through Feb. 7, the most recent data available.
Among the weeks he filed for was a six-day work week spanning the end of July and beginning of August, a total he admitted last week was a mistake.
Rosenberg said a staffer filling out his expense form accidentally counted the first day of August — which fell on a Thursday — toward his July total that week, and then counted it again when filing his expenses for the month of August.
“We have to go back and fix that,” Rosenberg said after a Herald reporter pointed out the irregularity. He chalked up his heavy travel to his work as majority leader, a role he took on in January 2013. “I am spending more days in Boston and more days traveling around the state visiting the districts of my colleagues at their requests. So, unfortunately, it means less time in my own district.”
So far, lawmakers have amassed a $347,000 travel bill for 2013, though under state rules, they have until the end of this year to file, meaning the tab could grow. The stipends range from $10 to $100, depending on where lawmakers rest their head.
But it’s likely Rosenberg could keep his top spot. The highest total from each of the past two years belonged to Sen. Ben Downing (D-Pittsfield), who at $90 a day, filed for $9,090 this year, down from $9,630 in 2012 and 2011.
On the House side, Nantucket state Rep. Timothy Madden leads the way with $8,100, trailing Worcester state Rep. John Binienda’s $8,604 and North Adams Rep. Gailanne Cariddi’s $8,460 from 2012.
Binienda, who has announced he isn’t running for re-election as he battles diabetes, filed for 194 days and $6,984 this year, a drop he attributed to undergoing dialysis, which he said “knocks me out sometimes.” Cariddi hadn’t filed for 2013 as of earlier this month.
State Rep. Paul Donato put in 205 days, the most in the House, and a number he attributed to regularly presiding over the House’s informal sessions in place of Speaker Robert DeLeo. “I’m there, and certainly the $10 (daily stipend) isn’t going to make me rich,” the Medford Democrat said.
State Rep. Geoff Diehl, a Whitman Republican who is among those who don’t take the stipend, is also among those pushing a ballot initiative to repeal last year’s law tying the gas tax to inflation.
“Despite the fact that it’s available, it’s not something taxpayers should be on the hook for,” he said of the perk