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Is your Maryland representative enjoying a vacation or planning one that was paid for with hotel rewards earned by using taxpayer dollars? A recent article in The Capital Gazette highlighted this possibly contentious issue. The Maryland General Assembly allows legislators a maximum of $9,191 maximum to pay for lodging in Annapolis during the legislative session. This allows some legislators to rack up quite a bit of rewards points, which in turn can be used for anything from free nights in the Bahamas as well as clothing or jewelry from high end establishments like Tiffany and Co.
Marriott Annapolis Waterfront – Marriott Rewards members can earn up to 10 points per dollar spent. More than 90,000 points could be earned for $9,191, getting as many as 12 free nights at the lowest-ranked Marriott-brand hotel and two free nights at the highest-ranked Marriott brand hotel. Points can also be redeemed on cruises, car rentals and merchandise like bikes and jewelry.
Several state watchdog groups have criticized this policy. Jim Pettit of Change Maryland said he’d “prefer the state require the points be donated to charity or used to save on government business.” Common Cause Maryland Executive Director, Jennifer Bevan-Dangel feels using state-subsidized lodging to earn personal benefits raises a “serious question when it’s the taxpayers who have generated those points for them.”
While as many as 99 lawmakers used the maximum allowed by the state for lodging, 36 more asked for more than $9,000 in reimbursement. Legislators are barred from taking advantage of “credit card rewards” when paying for lodging, but not the hotel reward programs.
Not all legislators are receiving these ‘benefits’. Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington) rents a town house and Del. Pam Beidle (D-Linthicum) stays at the Governor Calvert House, which doesn’t offer a reward program.
Do you feel these ‘reward points’ are just a perk the legislators are entitled to or would you prefer the points were used strictly for government business?
Tags: Change Maryland, Common Cause, Jennifer Beven-Dengal, Jim Pettit, Marryland General Assembly, Maryland Politics
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