Members only - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Members only

OLYMPIA, Wash. - It's lunchtime at Holmes Elementary in the Spokane Public Schools.  Today pizza was the prized menu item at a school, which serves a lot of the "free and reduced lunch" families.  District wide, Spokane spends $8, 931,531 on lunch alone. And ironically, lunch at the state capitol is on the menu for this story.

Lawmakers there have their own "exclusive" place to eat, a "members only" cafeteria, staffed and operated during the 60 session and costing taxpayers $32,000. But that's just the House, The Senate has one too and that costs taxpayers another $19,508.  That means to feed our lawmakers "privately", taxpayers are served the bill of $51, 508 for 60 days, and that number doesn't include the food.

For comparison's sake, if that $51, 508 dollars were used elsewhere in the state budget, it would fund 1,716, 933 free and reduced lunches, which is 1/3 of Spokane's yearly free lunch program.

The Federal Government subsidizes the free and reduced lunch program.  The USDA Federal reimbursement for the program in Washington State is $2.88 for just lunch.  The state then kicks in another $ .0352 bringing the total lunch cost to $2.91 per lunch.

House Response to our inquiry:

There are several reasons why the House and Senate each maintain separate member cafeterias, not the least of which are the space limitations of the Legislative Building.  While the House cafeteria is open to Senators for breakfast (the Senate cafeteria does not serve breakfast and fewer members use the facilities in the early morning hours), it would be difficult to service all 147 legislators in one cafeteria (be it theirs or ours) for lunch (or dinner if both chambers were working late). 

 Also, it is worth noting that the House and the Senate are "separate" institutions with their own rules, customs, staff, and resources.  Over the years, we have consolidated a number of legislative services.  We also share some of our resources.  However, in the case of the cafeterias, neither chamber really has enough space to accommodate the entire Legislature.

Bernard Dean
Deputy Chief Clerk
Washington House of Representatives 

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