At a time when a budget deal is announced in Harrisburg you have people like Brad Bumsted over at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review highlighting legislative excesses costing taxpayers big time. In this article he chronicles the catering bills paid for our legislators while they collect their per diem, an allowance part of which is to pay for meals. It's not only double dipping but it demonstrates the audacity of our legislators to lavish themselves while people are losing their jobs or going without health insurance.
Try $680 at Papa John's on March 10, 2008.
That same day, the House spent $4,612 on food from Zia's catering.
They spread the pizza purchases around.
On March 17, 2008, the House spent:
• $160 at Monte Carlo's Pizza
• $1,351 at Brother's Pizza
• $690 at Papa John's
• and $936 at Mama's Pizza, according to House records.
That's $3,137 worth of pizza -- in one day.
At an average, say, of $12 per pizza, that's 261 pies.
For opening-day ceremonies on Jan. 1, 2007, the catering tab was $15,000 from Our Daily Bread in Harrisburg. Of course, a lot of family and friends were fed that day as well.
Catering from Cantone's restaurant in July 2007 was $9,750.
Zia's catering was paid $5,150 on July 16 of that year.
The cost of per diems for the House then was about $29,000 per day.
During the 2008 budget impasse (very short by this year's standards), the House fed lawmakers on June 29 and 30, and July 2, 3 and 4.
On June 29, there were catering tabs for $6,175 from C & J Catering and $6,964 from Zia's.
That was $13, 319, or $65 per member.
Staffers undoubtedly take their share, so the per-member figure probably was a lot less.
On July 4, 2008, the House splurged -- if that's possible.
Because lawmakers had to work on Independence Day, they pulled out all stops with a $20,550 tab from Premier Catering. There are part-time workers in the commonwealth who would like to make that much in a year.
It's double dipping, pure and simple.
On many other days when they receive per diems now worth $158, lawmakers eat on the lobbyists' dime.
Very few if any legislators reduce per diems because they're getting free chow.
The House comptroller has said that if lawmakers eat meals provided by the chief clerk, they don't have to deduct that from their per diems. If they eat out, they are supposed to do so.
Lawmakers who eat free are pocketing lots of money.
On former Rep. Frank LaGrotta's blog (lagrottablog.blogspot.com), the Lawrence County Democrat recently recalled a song sung regularly by former Rep. Gerard Kosinski, a Philadelphia Democrat, whenever the House took the master roll call, to the tune of "Maria" from "West Side Story":
I just got another per diem.
For coming to the floor.
And doing nothing more,
All day ...
Per diem ...
My goal is to save my per diem.
To eat and drink all day,
While lobbyists, they pay,
For me ...