Second special session: What it could cost taxpayers

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OLYMPIA -- As state legislators entered a second special legislative session Tuesday, many Q13 News viewers asked an important question:

How much will the session cost taxpayers?

State Legislators are no stranger to the extended session. Lawmakers haven't finished a budget without one since 2012, and it has cost taxpayers an estimated $1.5 million over five years. When the state Legislature went into a third special session in 2015, it cost nearly $500,000, according to the Associated Press.

But exactly what this year's extended session will cost is yet to be determined, Senate administration employees told Q13 News.

Cost of last four special sessions for state Senate.

The price tag is determined by staffing costs, per diems for lawmakers and travel-expense reimbursement.

A per diem of $120 per day is available to all lawmakers during the special session. According to the Seattle Times, a group of eight legislators - four Democrats and four Republicans - are working on grinding out a budget deal. Since the majority of legislators are away, many chose not to take their per diem.

Still, the bill is hefty. The Senate racked up $45,780 in per diem last year. In 2015, daily expenses for the Senate were $147,790.

Estimates for the first special session show member per diem cost at $78,761, with a total cost at $145,697.

Estimates on the cost of the 1st Special Session.

Q13 News reporter Hana Kim is working on a story on exactly which lawmakers are accepting the pay.

Another variable cost during the special session is travel expenses, which are reimbursed when lawmakers go to Olympia to take a vote. Costs vary depending on member.

Staff is trimmed during special sessions, administration employees said, and operating costs are less. During a regular session, each state Senator has a session aid, and those aids are not kept during the special session. Staffing expenses still rack up, and cost the Senate $43,773 in 2016.

So the bill is yet to be determined. And each day the session is extended, the cost climbs.

Each state Legislator makes $46,839 a year. That number will grow to $48,731 following a recently approved 2 percent raise.

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