Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous: Legislative Edition

Atlanta Unfiltered took a look and what Legislators spend on their housing and came up with some interesting numbers. The taxpayers reimburse each Legislator $173 per day for meals and lodging but many spend their campaign money on meals and lodging in addition to the per diem. The most lavish spender? Senator Don Balfour, who lives in Snellville, about a 30-40 minute drive depending on traffic.

Sen. Don Balfour (right) of Snellville didn’t break out the monthly rent, but he’s spent $7,750 so far this year on “session apartment rental.” If that’s for January through March, he’s paying nearly $2,600 a month. He paid the same gentleman $1,200 in December for “condo rental” and $9,170 last May in connection with a house rental.

Rep. Richard Smith of Columbus paid an average of $2,373 a month to rent a unit at Post Renaissance Apartments in Marietta. He also paid $288 in January for “residence set-up.”

Rep. Jerry Keen of St. Simons Island, $1,900 a month. Since October, Keen has also spent nearly $4,500 on “furnishings for official lodging.” That included $2,291 to West Elm, a brand of Williams-Sonoma; $1,116 to New Avenues, a lease-to-own outlet based in Alpharetta; $640 to Pier One Imports; $307 to Bed, Bath & Beyond; and $103 to Crate & Barrel.

Sen. Tommie Williams of Lyons paid an average of $1,897 in January and February to rent an apartment. Nothing reported for March.

Spending campaign funds on expenses related to doing you job as a Legislator is perfectly legal, and I’m not saying it should be outlawed, but do Legislators need to spend up to $2600 per month on lodging? Sure, the taxpayers aren’t paying all of that but lobbyists are. Also, it’s one thing for Jerry Keen, who can’t drive home at night, to spend money on lodging, but a Senator from Snellville?


  1. Chris says:

    I’ve said before – we don’t pay these guys enough. That leads to the lobbyists paying for their expenses. While any legislative pay hike or office budget increase is political suicide now, ethics legislation needs to put in something that will trigger on “Revenue returning to 2007 levels”

    • Doug Deal says:

      I agree. Populist nonsense about lowering salaries of legislators on the state or Federal levels is foolish.

      The only people who can be in the legislator are already wealthy or live in Atlanta and have some sort of peculiar source of livelihood. Anyone with a real job can’t afford to give it up for 4-5 months of the year for $17,000.

      Plus, you get what you pay for.

    • BuckheadConservative says:

      The lobbyist are just servicing an under-served sector of our economy, our legislators. How noble.

      Sarcasm aside, you may be right. I hadn’t thought much about that.

  2. Ludwig Von Beachbum says:

    Oh please! If we paid them more they would still screw us.

    That’s like saying I didn’t give my X enough money and credit cards to go to the mall with.

  3. ByteMe says:

    but do Legislators need to spend up to $2600 per month on lodging

    If they don’t then they’ll have to leave a tie on the door as a signal to their roommates not to come in.

  4. Jazzman says:

    A lot of states provide housing for their State House Members who live far away from the capital. They are generally like classy dorms which is also where most of mistresses came from any ways so they should be used to them

  5. polisavvy says:

    So, to bilk us even more, rumor has it that session may extend into May. Rents are generally due the first of the month. After all, God forbid the local ones have to drive home at night.

  6. chefdavid says:

    I think my Rep shares and Apartment and I think my Senator stays in his office. I can’t fault them if they stayed in an Apartment. The closer you get to the capitol the more expensive. They spend a lot of late nights and it would probably be a short term lease. It wouldn’t even bother me if they stayed in a hotel down town. They are not there that long.

  7. Wiley says:

    That’s nice of you to plug Atlanta Unfiltered but how about checking out the AJC article that lists the TOP spenders of taxpayer money. Surely each legislator has expenses related to their duties but when someone is taking advantage of the system, we revert back to the “old system” that would usually have everyone on here in an uproar. How about Sen. David Shafer? Making more than 40,000 in per diems is obviously abusing the system. I mean what could he possibly be doing for those extra 207 days? There are only 40 days of session and he is not in Senate leadership. Sen. Shafer, since you are such a frequent visitor to the site, perhaps you wouldn’t mind enlightening us as to why taxpayers should fund your year round session. Since your secretary maintains records for your working days at the Capitol, it shouldn’t be hard to explain how in those 207 days you were being a good steward of taxpayer money?

    • redrock says:

      207 days of per diem. That’s 4 work days charged to the state every week of the year. I’m going to call BS on those being legitimate working days.

      Regardless, it sure must be expensive traveling those 26 miles from Duluth to Atlanta.

    • todd rehm says:

      I believe that the per diem is paid on session days as well, so 80 of those 207 days were days the legislature was in session.

      Of the remaining 127 days, I’d guess that about 20 per session, for a total of 40, were days during the session when the General Assembly was not in session but committee meetings were held.

      So that leaves 87 days that were not directly related to session. Over 16 months, that comes to about 5.5 per month. Is that really that surprising or out of line?

      Disclaimer: I worked for Shafer during the 2009 session.

  8. unknowndude says:

    $2600 a month for lodging sounds like a crapload, but for a furnished 1br in Atlanta, that’s a pretty good deal.

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