Maybe it is because I just read another heartbreaking piece, in a seemingly endless series of heartbreaking articles, about the rise in the number of people seeking food from food banks. Maybe it is because our lawmakers seem utterly tone deaf to the political optics of their actions. Whatever the reason, the latest report of our state senators dining on our dime is particularly galling.
Over the past twelve months the State Senate has spent approximately $111,000 in taxpayer money on meals for themselves. To put this number in perspective over the previous 12 months the State Senate managed to spend over 10% less on taxpayer funded food.
I do my best to live in the real world, and I know that $111,000 would not put much of a dent in our state's budget. However, that money would make a big difference to a lot of people. I'd like to see that money put to better use than funding the meals of our elected officials. Let's for a moment consider what a wonderful gesture it would have been for our state senators to donate whatever taxpayer money they would use for their own meals to food banks throughout the state.
The base pay for our state senators, elected officials who work for us, the taxpayers, is $95,291 per year. That's the highest base pay for state senators in the nation. It is also well above the median household income in California. My point is that this is not a group in danger of going hungry.
To be fair, meals are typically only provided to State Senators when they are forced to remain on the Senate floor through lunch or dinner hours. However, our lawmakers also obtain a tax-free $143 per diem to cover expenses incurred in Sacramento. Truth be told, this money could and should be put to better use.
Jessica Levinson writes about the intersection of law and government every Monday. She is a Visiting Professor at Loyola Law School.