Carroll County Times

Anne Arundel Republicans outspend Democrats on meals, mileage

Anne Arundel County lawmakers spent nearly $42,000 of state money on dining and driving during the 2013 General Assembly session.
The county's 10 Republican state senators and delegates claimed nearly $25,000 in reimbursements from Maryland for meals and mileage in 2013. Anne Arundel's 10 Democrats claimed nearly $17,000.
The dollars add to money county lawmakers were reimbursed for lodging. In April, The Capital reported that Democrats outspent Republicans 47-to-1 on hotel stays during the session. Democrats spent more than $47,000 on lodging, while Republicans spent just $1,000.
Altogether, the county's blue party legislators outspent their red counterparts nearly 2.5-to-1.
In addition to their annual salaries of $43,500, state lawmakers can be reimbursed $42 per day for meals and 56.5 cents per mile for driving. They also can get lodging expenses of up to $101 per day for the 91 days encompassing the 90-day session.
Republicans criticized Democrats like Del. Pam Beidle of Linthicum for using state money to spend nights in a hotel during the session when she lives in the same county as the State House. Prior to the start of this year's General Assembly session, the GOP asked Beidle to return the money.
Beidle, who didn't claim any money for meals and mileage, said the new numbers tell the whole story.
"At least people will see that the Republicans are talking out of both sides of their mouths," Beidle said in an email. "They criticize the Democrats for lodging, then they spend money for meals and gas. I wonder if they are going to return the money!"
Statewide, more than $550,000 was spent on meals and mileage for lawmakers, while $1.3 million was used for lodging.
Legislators who claimed money for lodging tended to claim less for mileage, as they didn't have to drive as much to and from Annapolis.
Every delegate from District 21 - which is mainly in Prince George's County but extends into western Anne Arundel - claimed the maximum allowed for lodging, $9,191.
But Sen. Jim Rosapepe, D-College Park, from that district claimed only $1,110 for lodging and filed for the most of any county lawmaker for mileage: $1,643.
Some legislators used no state money for expenses during the session. Democratic Sens. John Astle of Annapolis and Ed DeGrange of Glen Burnie and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Annapolis, didn't ask for any reimbursements.
The same goes for Dels. Herb McMillan, R-Annapolis, and Cathy Vitale, R-Severna Park, as well as Sen. Ed Reilly, R-Crofton.
Vitale said every legislator has his or her own perspective on whether to spend taxpayer dollars on hotels, meals and mileage.
As her home is 10.2 miles from the State House, she said, things are different for her than they would be for, say, a Frederick County lawmaker.
But Vitale said she personally doesn't think it's right to charge the taxpayers for mileage, meals or hotel stays. She said she treats being a legislator the same as she does her job as a lawyer. If she weren't commuting to Annapolis, Vitale said, she'd be driving to her law office in Glen Burnie at her own expense.
During the 90 days of session, she said, she keeps a jar of peanut butter and crackers at her desk, but also takes advantage of the many invitations legislators get at mealtimes.
"The question's not `Can you stay, eat or drive?' The question is, `Should you bill the state for it?'" Vitale said. "I just choose not to bill the state for it. I think that's appropriate. I think that's what citizens expect when you talk to them about being a good steward."