Monday, November 15, 2010

Cut Congressional Perks Before You Cut Anything

It's fiscal gluttony. Why on earth would we pay Senator Byrd's salary to his family after he's dead? That's what happening according to a poster on a Yahoo news site:

The only good news I've heard is that we're getting rid of Nancy Pelosi's private jet which costs about 100,000 an hour. Boehner says he's going to travel commercial--expensive enough, but not nearly like the Empress Pelosi:

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0 users disliked this commentPam 11 hours ago Report Abuse How Are the Benefits? For Members of Congress

In a down economy, a good benefits package can be hard to find.
But on Capitol Hill, a 401(k) and health plan is just the beginning. The
Hundreds of candidates vying for a coveted congressional seat this November will
Earn more than a chance at shaping the nation's legislative priorities if
Elected -- they'll tap into a mountain of perks that most Fortune 500 companies
Couldn’t begin to rival.

A little-known benefit drew some attention Wednesday after it was reported that
The family of the late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd will be paid his $193,000
salary next year. That's just the tip of the benefits iceberg that comes with
being a venerable member of Congress.

For those entering any of the 535 seats in Congress next year, here's a glance
at the world of juicy perks coming their way:

Fun Money: The base salary for a member of Congress is $174,000. But all members
enjoy access to a separate piggy bank known as their "allowance." This funding
generally goes toward maintaining their offices and building up a legislative
entourage. In the House, representatives are allowed to spend more than $900,000
on salaries for up to 18 permanent employees. They get about a quarter-million
dollars more for office expenses, including travel, and additional funding for a
well-known congressional perk known as "franking." Franking is the term for the
mass constituent mail sent out by members of Congress and paid for courtesy of
the taxpayer.

Senators enjoy the same privilege but get a much bigger allowance for their
office expenses. According to a Congressional Research Service report, the
average allocation for fiscal 2010 was more than $3.3 million. Personnel money
varies depending on how big of a state a senator represents -- a senator from
New York is going to get more than a senator from Montana. But for starters,
each senator is given a $500,000 budget to hire up to three legislative

Nice Digs: A seat in Congress comes with office space -- lots of it. Not only do
members move into an office on Capitol Hill, they maintain space in their home
districts and states too. For senators, this benefit has a pretty high cap - up
to 8,200 square feet. The CRS report said there is "no restriction" on the
number of offices they can open in federal buildings in their home states. Plus
senators get to shop at the equivalent of Congress' IKEA -- furniture supplied
through the Architect of the Capitol. Every senator gets $40,000 -- and
potentially more -- for furniture in their home-state offices.

Bonus Tax Deduction: Members of Congress can deduct up to $3,000 for expenses
while outside their home districts or states.

Insurance/Retirement: All members of Congress can sign up for the same health
plan and life insurance policy available to other federal workers. But there's
more. In an age when the 401(k) often becomes a substitute for a pension,
representatives and senators enjoy access to both. First, members of Congress
can sign up for a 401(k)-style "Thrift Savings Plan," a tax-deferred investment
in which members' contributions are matched up to 5 percent.

Then there's Social Security. Then there's the pension plan. The pension
payments and eligibility vary -- in a nutshell, members are eligible for an
immediate, full pension at age 62 if they've served five years or more; they're
eligible at age 50 if they've served 20 years; and they're eligible at any time
after they've served 25 years. The annual amount of the pension depends on a
lawmaker's salary and the number of years he or she served -- typically the
amount is considerably less than a lawmaker's outgoing salary. "

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