Until now, if you
wanted to find out how much state lawmakers were reimbursed for travel
expenses including mileage, hotel and meal costs, you had to sift through
multiple binders in the legislative library at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe.
Because the documents weren't easily accessible – especially for people living outside Santa Fe – New Mexico In Depth requested the 2012 reports to post online in a searchable database. Today, we're publishing that database of more than 2,300 records.
You can find an overview here. It details how much each state legislator was reimbursed for daily expenses and travel while on official business during the 2012 calendar year, the most recent full year of data available.
The rate New Mexico paid state lawmakers for per diem, an allowance for expenses such as hotel and meal costs, was $154 a day from January-May and November-December; it was $176 a day from June-October. The rate sometimes fluctuates with the federal government's determination of lodging and meal costs in Santa Fe. Legislators were also reimbursed 55.5 cents per mile in 2012 for travel to official meetings around the state.
Lawmakers receive no other compensation, such as a salary, for their work. Many states do pay their lawmakers salaries, though the salaries vary greatly from state to state.
The state spent more than $1.2 million in 2012 on lawmakers' travel expenses.
The database makes it easy to learn how often your lawmakers traveled on official business. Some only put in a handful of reimbursement requests in 2012. Others submitted dozens.
For example, you'll see that Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, submitted 51 requests for reimbursement in 2012 – nearly one a week. Good? Bad? You decide. We just think you have the right to know.
One final note: The Department of Finance and Administration put a great deal of work into responding to our Inspection of Public Records Act request for these documents. Thanks to that department for its efforts.
Heath Haussamen, New Mexico In Depth’s deputy director, can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @haussamen. Find NMID at nmindepth.com.