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1980 Allowances and Expenses
Official Expenses of Members
$ 39,418,800 WEWSLETTERS
9.1% DISTRICT OFFICE
OFFICIAL EXPENSES OF MEMBERS Mr. HENSHAW. A schedule comparing the Appropriations for the various categories for fiscal year 1978, 1979, and 1980 appears on page 59 of the Subcommittee Print.
Mr. BENJAMIN. Would you withhold at that point? Mr. HENSHAW. Yes, sir. Mr. BENJAMIN. I am going to ask you to include in the record pages 38 through 44 and open yourself to questions from the subcommittee at this time on official expenses of Members.
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35-533 0 - 79 - 28 (Pt. 2)
OFFICIAL EXPENSES OF MEMBERS
GENERAL DESCRIPTION For Official Expenses of Members, $39,418,800. This is the category that includes Members' Congressional Allowances except Clerk Hire. I have inserted on page 39 for the record a bar graph summary of the individual cost centers which make up Members' Official Expenses Allowances, together with a preceding nine year history.
Under this allowance each Member is presently entitled to $32,911 plus variable amounts for travel, telecommunications and rental of district office space. These latter amounts depend, respectively, on distance to the farthest point in each District, election of WATS service and cost per minute of telephone toll charges, and GSA cost per square foot of office space. The allowance totals range from a low of $59,810 to a high of $183,911. The average annual allowance is approximately $75,000.
In addition, Members may allocate up to $15,000 annually of unused Clerk Hire funds to their Official Expenses Allowances. As I mentioned in my earlier testimony regarding Members' Clerk Hire, we budget for these “transfers" under Official Expenses of Members and correspondingly reduce our request for Members' Clerk Hire. In 1978 59 per cent of the Members allocated over 2.5 million dollars to Official Expenses.
To assist you in future reviews of the component accounts which make up the category "Official Expenses of Members", the Office of Finance will continue to summarize disbursements by individual cost centers such as travel, constituent communications, telecommunications, etc. This will also enable our office to statistically monitor the spending performance of Members and more accurately identify financial needs. In addition, the Office of Finance will summarize your monthly disbursements by type of expense and include the schedule with your monthly allowance statement. We believe this will greatly facilitate your own office budgeting. These capabilities are incorporated in the computerized financial management system of the House. I would like at this time to discuss each category of the Official Expenses of Members.
NEWSLETTERS Newsletters.-Of the nearly 39.4 million dollars requested for this line item, $3,602,000 is estimated for Constituent Communications. This does not include your regular Congressional letterhead used in personal correspondence or the franking costs, but rather pertains primarily to newsletters. The disbursements in fiscal year 1978 averaged nearly $278,000 per month or approximately $630 per Member.
COMPUTERS Computers.-We estimate the Members will spend $3,141,000 for various means of computer support in the operation of their Congressional offices. This account is receiving increased utilization. Effective the beginning of the 96th Congress, the Committee on House Administration required that all contracts for outside computer support be on file with the Committee and the Office of Finance before any 1979 obligations could be paid. This will allow management studies to be conducted on the contract terms, servicing and rates of computer services. This category does not include computer support costs for certain committees or the funding for House Information Systems, which are included under Special and Select Committees.
EQUIPMENT Equipment.-For the purchase, lease and maintenance of Members' electrical and mechanical office equipment, we are including $4,531,000. The actual dollar amount included in each Member's Official Expenses Allowance for leased equipment is $9,000 per year. As you know, your purchased office equipment is limited by an inventory valuation of $5,500 per Member. In addition to the costs of purchased and leased equipment, we also pay for the maintenance of Members' purchased equip ment from this appropriation. The repair of leased equipment is handled by the lessor.
The House continued a new program initiated in 1978 whereby the General Services Administration (GSA) would acquire certain equipment for use in Members' district offices. Prior to 1978, Members could lease certain approved items for use in the District, while GSA would provide certain purchased items. Under the present program GSA will purchase equipment previously leased by the Member and charge it against a GSA allowance which is also used for carpeting, furnishing, etc. The U.S. House of Representatives will reimburse GSA from funds provided
within this line item. The reduction in one category is offset by an increase in another.
POSTAGE Postage. - Another component of the Official Expenses of Members is postage. We are budgeting $261,000 to cover postage which is necessary, in addition to the franking privilege, for Members to perform their official and representational duties.
DISTRICT RENT District Rent.—The U.S. House of Representatives currently averages over one half million dollars per month in payment for district office rent. Our estimate for fiscal year 1980 is $7,666,800 and includes reimbursements to GSA. Built into each Member's Official Expenses Allowance is an amount to lease 2500 square feet of office space at the highest rate in your district as established by GSA. Members may lease private or Federal space. The House reimburses GSA quarterly for space in Federal Buildings. Mr. Chairman, I will place in the record at this time a table of relevant statistics regarding the leasing of district office space which I believe you will find most informative.
TRAVEL Travel.—The portion of Official Expenses of Members pertaining to travel for fiscal year 1980 is $3,214,000. This includes all travel for Members and staff anywhere in the United States or to their district if outside the contiguous United States in performance of their official duties. That portion of each Member's allowance for travel should allow approximately 32 round trips to the district per session. Of course, as with the other component parts we are discussing, a Member may use whatever portion he wishes of his Official Expenses Allowance for travel
In calendar year 1978, the House paid over 2.1 million dollars for Members' travel and nearly 1 million dollars for travel by staff.
Members and staff may be reimbursed for the direct cost of commercial transportation. Where they are able to charge the expense, Members may authorize direct payments to the carrier or credit card company. Reimbursements for using noncommercial transportation are based on "out of pocket" expenses or mileage in accordance with the following rates per mile: autombile, 17 cents; motorcycle, 15 cents; or private aircraft, 36 cents. Transportation is one of the three variable components of each Member's total annual Official Expenses Allowance and is based on the distance from Washington, D.C. to the farthest point in a Member's district multiplied by applicable decreasing mileage rates. Members within 235 miles of Washington, D.C. have a minimum of $2,250 in their Official Expenses Allowance for travel.
TELECOMMUNICATIONS Telecommunications.-We estimate that the House will spend $10,817,000 out of "Official Expenses of Members" for telecommunications in fiscal year 1980.
Since the telecommunications account covers a variety of costs, I would like, in the limited time available, to highlight our most material amounts.
Our most prominent cost estimate is the WATS which we feel will cost $3,836,000, representing a network of 230 WATS lines. The long distance toll charges which cannot be handled by the WATS network will be $790,200. We estimate an annual cost of $2,282,800 for contract services which represents the cost of equipment used in association with the House Telephone System.
The balance of the total telecommunications budget for 1980 includes telephone message units, the part-time FTS, district office telephone expenses, FTS mileage costs and telegraph expenses.
OFFICE SUPPLIES Office supplies. We have included $2,319,000 for office supplies. Each Member's Official Expenses Allowance includes $6,500 per session for stationery and related supplies. It is interesting to note that our estimate is approximately one-half million dollars less than if all Members spent $6,500 per year.
OTHER OFFICIAL EXPENSES Office expenses. The last subcategory in Official Expenses of Members covers all other types of expenses which are not specifically summarized in the aforementioned cost centers. These types of disbursements are referred to as just “Official Expenses" on your monthly Member's Allowance Statement. We estimate $3,867,000