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Frugal Rep. Duckworth returning $113,918 in unspent office funds

WASHINGTON—Freshman Rep. Tammy Duckworth D-Ill., is a determined penny pincher, turning back to the U.S. Treasury $113,918.54 from her congressional office allowance.

That’s out of the $1,232,818 Duckworth was allocated in 2013 for what is called the Members’ Representational Allowance.

In 2013, Duckworth also had, according to a survey by the Sun-Times based on data in Legistorm, by far the lowest salary payroll of all 18-members of the Illinois Congressional delegation.

I asked Duckworth how she attained the savings and part of the answer was her approach from the start: Duckworth told me she did not see a need to spend her entire allowance if she did not have to.“I was just very conscious,” Duckworth told me, “if we actually needed something.”

Since unspent funds cannot be carried over from year to year, some members opt to make sure they spend down their allowance for office expenses or salaries rather than “sacrifice” the money.

Elected in 2012, sworn into office in January, 2013, Duckworth told me that “especially in the first year,” she was cautious in her hiring, “only adding staff as the workload grew.”

She added employees “as we needed them,” Duckworth told me. She just saw no need to “spend all the money right away.”

Duckworth also pays rent for only one congressional district office, in Schaumburg. She further cut overhead by obtaining furniture from the General Services Administration warehouse.

In other Duckworth frugal fiscal moves:

*Last year she gave back $10,000 in salary to the U.S. Treasury during the sequestation.

*In April, Duckworth introduced a bill to ban members from using their office allowance to pay for first class air travel on domestic flights unless there is a disability or medical need, the flight is more than five hours or there are some special circumstances.

*In June Duckworth with Rep. Rob Woodall R-Ga. introduced a bill dealing with congressional franking privileges, calling for lawmakers to have to pay the post office in advance for office mailings.