Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Legislators Rack Up $532,000 In Per Diem Bonuses While Failing To Pass A Budget

Here is the latest legal scam of taxpayer money. Brad Bumsted at the Pittsuburgh Tribune-Reivew highlights the per diems paid to state legislators as they continue to fail in their duties to pass a state budget.

During July and August, the first two months of the state's budget impasse, lawmakers in the House and Senate collected $532,585 in per diems for food and lodging payments, records show.

Records filed with the House comptroller and Senate chief clerk show 107 Democrats and 74 Republicans collected per diems in July and August. The $158 daily allowance — a flat payment for which legislators don't need receipts — is part of the cost to taxpayers for the unresolved budget that was due July 1.

The taxpayers' costs for per diems would not be incurred if a budget was completed by June 30, as required by law. In the past, the Legislature recessed for 2 1/2 months, starting on or about July 1. They have approved budgets late for the seven years under Gov. Ed Rendell, resulting in some July per diems. But the costs during this budget impasse are the highest since at least the 1970s.

The payments to legislators during the budget impasse "make me sick," said Judy Kandel, 67, a Canonsburg retiree.

"I think since they are getting their pay, they don't give a hoot. They're looking out for themselves, not the people," she said.
The House records cover per diems submitted as of Sept. 8; the Senate records, through Aug. 31. Not all legislators claimed their per diems for the two-month period.

But based on available records, Democratic Reps. John Galloway of Bucks County and Ron Waters of Philadelphia collected the most — $7,426 for 47 per diems.

Galloway claimed 30 per diems for days when the House was not in session.

"I thought it was important to be in Harrisburg while this was going on," Galloway said. "I got a lot of questions from people, 'Why aren't you in Harrisburg working on the budget?' "

Waters did not return phone calls or e-mails seeking comment.

The top 3 in the House stack up this way:
Waters, Ron D Philadelphia $7,426
Galloway, John D Bucks $7,426
Eachus, Todd D Luzerne $7,010

As opposed to the bottom three:
Sturla, Mike D Lancaster $720
Pallone, John D New Kensington $474
Saylor, Stan R York $109

Here's a link to SOP's column about collecting per diems while generating significant catering bills. Lobbyists take legislators out to dinner while they are collecting per diems. State employees for the Attorney General must provide receipts to collect their per diem. Legislators are not under the same requirements.

Speaking of questionable ethics. Here is a link to the House Ethics Committee. Click around, they do NOTHING.

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