Mike Dunleavy took over $125,000 in per diem while in the Legislature

In the five years that now-Governor Mike Dunleavy (R – Alaska) served in the Alaska Legislature, he took over $125,000 in per diem. The Landmine obtained the information through a records request to the Legislative Affairs Agency. Dunleavy was elected to the Alaska Senate in 2012. He served until January 2018, when he resigned to run for governor.

When Dunleavy signed the budget on June 30, he vetoed legislative per diem for the fiscal year that began on July 1. Unless overridden by the Legislature, this veto will prevent legislators from collecting per diem during the upcoming special session and next year’s regular special session. Legislators could add back per diem in a supplemental budget, but Dunleavy could also veto that.

Legislators automatically get per diem during the regular session unless they refuse it. They have to claim it during special sessions. Of the more than $125,000 in per diem Dunleavy took as a senator, over $116,000 was automatic per diem for regular sessions. The only time Dunleavy refused any regular session per diem was in 2017, his last session before resigning to run for governor. He claimed $24,524 of a possible $30,949 for the 2017 regular session.

Legislators earn a salary of just over $50,000. Per diem, which is in Article II, Section 7 of the Alaska Constitution, allows legislators to pay for food, lodging, and travel to Juneau. The reason per diem was put into the Alaska Constitution stems from the Territorial Legislature. In the days of the Territorial Legislature, legislators were susceptible to bribery due to their low compensation.

Here are the per diem reports for 2013-2017:

2013 per diem report

2014 per diem report

2015 per diem report

2016 per diem report 

2017 per diem report

In 2013, Dunleavy took the maximum of $21,060 in per diem during the regular session. There were no special sessions. In 2014 he took the maximum of $22,515. There were no special sessions in 2014. In 2015 he took the maximum of $22,414. He, along with 11 other senators, took no money in recess per diem. He took $669 in per diem for the first special session, no per diem for the second special session (located in Anchorage), and $2,889 in per diem at the third special session (located in Juneau).

In 2016 he took the maximum $19,590 in per diem. He took an additional $7,215 in per diem for days 91-121. He took $741 in per diem (three days) during the fourth special session (2015-2016 was one legislature). This was far below the amounts other legislators took for the fourth special session. Most took over $5,000. Only two other non-Juneau legislators took less per diem for that special session. This means they either weren’t there or did not claim per diem. He took $247 in per diem (one day) for the fifth special session. This was less than almost every other legislator. Twenty-eight legislators took over $1,000 for that special session.

In 2017 he took $19,334 in per diem. This was below the maximum of $22,084, meaning he declined some days. He took an additional $5,190 for days 91-121. This was also below the maximum of $8,865, meaning he declined some of those days as well. He claimed $2,065 for the first special session, which was on the low end. He claimed $1,770 for the second special session, which was also on the low end. He claimed $0 for the third special session (no one claimed over $295 for that). He also claimed $0 for the fourth special session (only a handful of legislators claimed per diem at $275, one at $550). Dunleavy resigned at the beginning of 2018 to run for governor.

Governor Dunleavy’s office has not responded for a request for comment.

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Lynn Willis
1 year ago

Yes, this is how the Governor and others apply the concept of using Alaska’s resources;”… for the maximum benefit of its people“. George Orwell in “Animal Farm” wrote how the pigs justified their status among the farm animals: “ “ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL / BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.” Time to pay per diem only for necessary and documented expenses.

1 year ago

Legislators should get per diem during their time in Juneau JUST LIKE ALL OTHER STATE EMPLOYEES. No other Alaska state employee is given $300.00 per day no matter what they actually spend on food, lodging, and travel. We all know that Chris Tuck and Scott Kawasaki rented a condo on Douglas Island during a previous session and shared it with two staffers. So each paid $600.00 per month for lodging. This is much less for lodging than $300.00 per day anticipates. This arrangement is not unusual; ask Wielechosky. Also no legislator, for example And Josephson, should use per diem to… Read more »

1 year ago
Reply to  JButler

Perhaps we should hire them on a full-time basis, pay them accordingly, and do away with the per diem. If you want the job, arrange your affairs so that you can fully focus on the job. That would remove distractions such as another job that precludes you from fully participating, or an employer that expects you to legislate on their behalf, as occurs now.

1 year ago
Reply to  JButler

Andy Josephson used per diem to purchase Juneau real estate? What is your source for this?

1 year ago

This was a good article, except that Alaska legislators are automatically paid the per diem during the regular sessions. So when you stated that the gov “took” the maximum, it was a misleading statement. So it was damning with faint praise. Even the title was misleading. But you are still ahead of the Midnight Sun and Desmond Cole in reporting. When I get ahead, I will definitely support you. But please try to be more accurate. And thanks for including the docs.