A report by The Associated Press released this week revealed that state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have received expense reimbursements for some arguably questionable items including a Bose headset, home Internet and even original pieces of art.
The AP report also released a companion list of lawmakers who included dry cleaning as part of their 2011 expenses, and District 31's Rep. Cathy Dahlquist could be found near the bottom of that list with a total of $182.
Dahlquist was far from the top spender when it came to dry cleaning as Rep. Ann Rivers racked up $519.18 in that same year.
In all, Dahlquist reveals that in 2012, each member of the House had a budget of $5,500 and her total expenses came to $2,792.06 for the year. In 2011, the budget was slightly more generous at $6,500, and she'd spent $3,696.46, with the majority of that total going to costs for having an in-district office.
Her spending was well within current House ethical guidelines, according to House Deputy Chief Clerk Bernard Dean. Dean explained that administrative staff go through a multi-tiered analysis to decide if something is eligible for reimbursement. The first tier is to ensure the item is deductible per IRS guidelines -- and dry cleaning is deductible.
He emphasizes the reimbursements only hold during active session, not for the rest of the year. The second tier is whether or not the expense is allowable per state ethics.
The bulk of reimbursements sought by lawmakers - on the House side - is for expenses related to having an in-district office, Dean said, following by costs associated with traveling within the legislators' district.
An example of a request that might be denied is if a lawmaker sought to use money in this budget for a purpose that is served by another designated budget, like for mailings, he said.
And though the AP story indicated iPhones were among the perks of being a lawmaker, Dean clarified iPhones are not an acceptable expense - at least on the House side.
There are many costs associated with being a legislator, Dahlquist said, and she has made a conscious effort to stay well within her budget. That there is now a focus on dry cleaning bills of state lawmakers, "It's a little frustrating," she said. "But I get it."