The Sacramento Democrat switched gears and requested that he be paid per diem after moving from North Natomas to the Pocket area months ago.
Beginning Jan. 4, Pan began receiving the $142 per day in living expenses that is designed to assist out-of-town lawmakers with food and housing costs while in Sacramento.
All legislators legally are entitled to per diem - about $30,000 annually - but Sacramento-area lawmakers typically do not accept it because they live within an easy commute of the Capitol.
Pan decided to move away from North Natomas after newly drawn legislative boundaries placed him in the same Assembly district with a fellow Democratic incumbent, Roger Dickinson of Sacramento.
Relocation allowed Pan to run as the only sitting legislator for the 9th Assembly District seat. The winner will represent a predominantly Democratic area from south Sacramento to Lodi.
Asked about his decision to accept per diem, Pan said, "I think the rationale is that I have to maintain two places of residence. I know that we're all trying to work things out."
Pan said that he now lives in the Pocket area but continues to make mortgage payments for his North Natomas house.
"The current financial situation, unfortunately, makes it difficult to sell the other place," he said. "As you know, housing prices are still falling even now in Sacramento."
Pan, a pediatrician by profession, received a salary of $95,291 as a legislator last year. His wife, Wen-Li Wang, owns a Natomas dental practice.
Because Pan lives within 50 miles of the Capitol, he must pay taxes on his $142 per diem, paid seven days a week while the Legislature is in session.
Sacramento County records show that Pan and his wife are registered to vote at different addresses - the lawmaker in the Pocket and his wife in North Natomas, closer to her practice.
Crystal Strait, Pan's chief of staff, said that the couple spend time at both their Natomas house and their Pocket condominium.
Elk Grove Councilwoman Sophia Gonzales Scherman, a Republican running for the 9th District seat, declined substantive comment about Pan's per diem.
"I'd leave it up to each individual," she said of accepting the stipend.
Scherman said that she would accept per diem, too, to defray costs of driving throughout the wide-ranging 9th District. The Legislature eliminated its lease-car program late last year and now reimburses lawmakers for miles driven in personal vehicles.
Tom Santos, the lone Democrat running against Pan in Tuesday's balloting, said he does not want to attack an opponent but that paying per diem to a local resident is a "waste of taxpayers money."
"One should do the right thing, even if it's allowed," said Santos, who is not raising money to wage a major campaign.
Santos, an Elk Grove tax consultant, said he would not accept per diem if elected. "Of course not, I wouldn't even consider it," he said.
Besides Pan, only three of 11 Sacramento-area legislators accept per diem: Assemblywoman Alyson Huber, D-El Dorado Hills; Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville; and state Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, records show.
PHOTO CREDIT: Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, in 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua