Corporation Commissioner wants to be paid mileage and per diem for travel to State Capitol


A bill that is still considered a “live round” in the Oklahoma legislature would give per diem expenses and reimbursement for mileage to certain statewide election officers, many who are paid more than $100,000 a year.

Senate Bill 1388 was authored by Sen. Jessica Garvin of Duncan.

“This was a request bill. This came from Corporation Commissioner Kim David. This is not coming from the Corporation Commission. This is a problem she and I had discussed and I volunteered to do it,” the Senator recently told the Senate General Government Committee where the bill was approved on a vote of 8-3.

The bill doesn’t just focus on Corporation Commissioners but includes the Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Superintendent of Public Instruction, State Treasurer, State Auditor and Inspector, Insurance Commissioner and Labor Commissioner.

While Corporation Commissioners are paid $114,713 a year, David lives in the Wagoner County town of Porter and wants to be paid mileage and per diem for the long drive to the state capitol where her offices are located.

During the Senate committee hearing, Sen. Garvin made the argument that sometimes elected officials who don’t live in the large urban areas  “don’t have the additional funds as a legislator or elected official to take money away from their family to be able to serve in office—sometimes it’s cost prohibitive for people to run for office.”

The Senator contends by paying per diem and mileage to the statewide elected officials, it would “help incentivize people who may not be high income to be able to run for a statewide office.”

Current law does not provide per diem or mileage to statewide elected officials. Commissioner David served 12 years in the State Senate where she received such payments but when she became a member of the Corporation Commission last year, she found out there were no such payments.

According to the Legislative Compensation Board report of last October, legislators ended up with a salary in 2023 of $47,500, mileage of $0.655 per mile, $8,238.72 in health benefits and a state retirement contribution of 7% or $3,325, making a total of $70,199.72.

Under Sen. Garvin’s bill, each of the individual agencies would determine the per diem and mileage, a matter that concerned Sen. Casey Murdock. While he agreed there should not be a hurdle “of only the rich can serve,” the Senator from Felt was critical of allowing each agency to determine the payments.

“Kind of like letting the fox in the hen house,” he remarked as he added that there should be “transparency to make sure the people of Oklahoma are not getting shafted.”

The strongest opposition came from Sen. Ally Seifried of Claremore who suggested “costs could snowball—it sets up a confusing framework.”

Before she voted no, Sen. Seifried declared, “I still remain concerned with the intent of the bill—not knowing the cost, the clarity.”

Supporters agreed with Sen. Garvin that allowing per diem and mileage might attract more interested candidates.

“I’m for it,” stated Sen. Darrell Weaver of Moore. “We want quality people in the future and these people weren’t making a ton of money. We need good people and we don’t need them paying” to travel to the state capitol.

The cost of Sen. Garvin’s bill is the unknown. The Senator admitted it would be “dependent on an individual agency. We don’t know how much it would be. It would change with each election cycle.”

But she felt each of the agencies would be capable for paying the per diem and mileage and would not need a new line-item in their budgets.

In other words, with two commissioners who live long distances from the capitol, such as the current makeup where Commissioner Todd Hiett lives in Kellyville and Commissioner David lives in Porter, the cost would be higher. The election of a commissioner or commissioners who live closer to the capitol would result in possible lower costs to the agency.

“People like Corporation Commissioners, they’re responsible for their own travel or having out of pocket to get to and from work every single day,” explained Sen. Garvin.

The bill was not heard by Thursday’s deadline in the full Senate but it was double assigned and also sent to the Senate Appropriation and Budget Committee, meaning it could still be alive for this legislative session. In effect, the deadline doesn’t have the immediate impact some believe.

As any seasoned observer of the legislature says, “nothing is dead until sine die.”