The Capitol may have been closed for 49 days but Louisiana lawmakers were still paid their $161 dollar daily per diem throughout that period.

Advocate Bureau Chief Mark Ballard told Jim Engster Thursday Morning on Talk Louisiana that despite the compressed schedule legislators will still collect 14,000 dollars aimed at reimbursing expenses for lawmakers while in session.

“Apparently it is in the constitution so they cannot cut the pay of an elected official during an elected officials term,” says Ballard.

Lawmakers receive the per diem on top of their $17,000 annual base salary.

Ballard says many lawmakers argue that they were doing legislative work during that period, even if it wasn’t at the Capitol.

“There was a lot of things going on and they were always available to talk and to update us on what was going on, so they were working during that time,” says Ballard.

Lawmakers must pass a balanced budget by July 1st, and the regular session ends June 1st. Ballard says if a June special session must be called, they’ll get per diem again.

“They get paid per day for the special session, which is pretty likely to happen,” says Ballard.

Per diem payments to lawmakers for the regular session cost the state about two million dollars a year.

(Story written by Matt Doyle/Louisiana Radio Network)