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Group wants more transparency on payments to Wisconsin lawmakers

WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- CBS 58 is digging into meal and hotel expenses state lawmakers can bill to taxpayers. While we may be footing the bill, lawmakers don't have to tell us how they're spending the money. 

Wisconsin representatives living outside of Madison can use up to $78 a day in meals and lodging whenever they work in the capital city during 

"Really, a per diem is a way for legislators to get paid for business expenses," Marquette Political Science Professor Paul Nolette said.

Wisconsin lawmakers tend to use less than other states. Some state's don't give lawmakers per diems at all. Alaska tops the list at $247. However, the Wisconsin Freedom Alliance says the system lacks transparency.

"We're not opposed to people being paid for their expenses, but this is a system where they don't have to produce any receipts, they don't have to prove the hours they work," says Marquette Political Science Professor Mike Flaherty.

At the top of the list, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. Taking in more than $13,000 in 2016, while Rep. Nancy Vander Meer from the Northwoods used less than one thousand. State senator Lena Taylor from Milwaukee is toward the bottom of the list, but she says the discrepancy makes sense because leaders travel to Madison more.

"I could understand how Senator Fitzgerald or Senator Schilling would be toward the top of the list because those are individuals who are leaders."

We reached out to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos's office about the receipt issue, he did not comment.

"That's been controversial because there's been concern that legislators are just taking the full amount, without actually incurring any of the business expense," Nolette said.

The Wisconsin Freedom Alliance says lawmakers should change that to fit in with regular workers.

"They should be paid for the expenses they incur, and receipts should be proven, and receipts and vouchers issued, just like every other worker in Wisconsin."


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