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Pa. lawmakers spent nearly $2 million on meals, lodging, car leases in 2021 | Price of Politics

Point out legislators collected over $1.5 million in for every diems, the non-taxable, no-receipt expenses developed for foods and lodging when lawmakers are on enterprise journeys.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — In a yr exactly where practically 9 out of each individual 10 items of launched laws were being not acted on by the Pennsylvania Standard Assembly, lawmakers applied nearly $2 million in taxpayer money on meals, lodging and car leases, all whilst earning the third-greatest legislative income in the country.

Most of the dollars arrived from benefits acknowledged as for each diems. These are the payments lawmakers can elect to obtain at the commence of the legislative year. The phrase “per diem” will come from the Latin phrase “every working day.”

They are mostly tax-free of charge and are intended to be used for foods and lodging when condition reps and senators are on official enterprise. Having said that, there is no way to demonstrate they are remaining effectively applied mainly because for every diems do not require receipts.

Point out legislator paying information attained by FOX43 by many correct-to-know requests display that, all through the overall 2021 calendar 12 months, Pennsylvania lawmakers billed taxpayers $1,511,029 in per diems by itself. 

Point out Home reps billed taxpayers far more than $1.4 million in for each diems, and Point out Senators extra another $100,000. 

“In Pennsylvania, the legislature prioritizes paying out funds on alone. Which is disheartening,” mentioned Democratic activist Eric Epstein.

In 2021, 7 of the major ten per diem takers were Democrats, with 9 of the 10 coming from the Home of Representatives. Mercer County Democrats Chris Sainato and Mark Longietti are once-a-year fixtures at the prime of the per diem taker record. Sainato took $32,410 in 2021, while Longietti took $32,359.

Sainato was asked to comment on his paying, and instructed FOX43 that his reviews from final Could when he was requested about his for every diem shelling out even now utilize.

“I consider we are meant to be in this article,” Sainato, minority chair of the Property Veterans Affairs Committee stated at the time. “If the frontline employees can come to work so should the legislature.”

The rest of the top 10 are as follows:

  1. Rep. Chris Sainato (D-Lawrence) – $32,410
  2. Rep. Mark Longietti (D-Mercer) – $32,359
  3. Rep. Frank Burns (D-Cambria) – $21,458
  4. Rep. MaryLouise Isaacson (D-Philadelphia) – $17,745
  5. Rep. Curtis Sonney (R-Erie) – $17,546
  6. Rep. Craig Staats (R-Bucks) – $17,259
  7. Sen. Patrick Browne (R-Lehigh) – $16,727
  8. Rep. Edward Neilson (D-Philadelphia) – $16,541
  9. Rep. Brian Simms (D-Philadelphia) – $15,997
  10. Rep. Jessica Benham (D-Allegheny) – $15,960

“The incentives of preserving the position with the fork out, the perks, the for every diems, the mileage, all the rewards, prevent good coverage,” stated Nathan Benefield of the conservative-leaning coverage team Commonwealth Basis.

Benefield also agrees Pennsylvania need to move toward a receipt-based mostly program, very similar to what most businesses in the non-public sector use to cover operate-related more costs. Condition Senator Jim Brewster (D-Westmoreland) has a invoice which would do just that. He also has proposed legislation to reduce the use of state leased vehicles by lawmakers. In 2021, 48 state associates and senators took a point out-issued car or truck, costing taxpayers a $245,415 clip. 

Neither Senate Monthly bill 362 or 363 have gotten off the floor in their committees, amongst the 85 percent of all charges introduced considering that the get started of the 2021-22 session which Republican committee chairpersons have not released for a vote. 

Brewster, having said that, may well have the Republican ally he wants. 

State Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) is a legislator on the other side of the aisle who has been identified to embrace transform. He is currently among the two Republican senators to brazenly endorse the legalization of recreational adult-use cannabis, lengthy a Democratic coverage position. Like Brewster, Laughlin does not get per diems, 1 of 100 in the legislature who keep away from the payments completely. It is a little something very good govt activists have applauded in modern several years.

Laughlin has a strategy which would shrink the range of for each diem takers even more, by eliminating the lawmakers solely. His bill proposes to shrink the Pennsylvania Household of Reps from 203 associates to 150. There would then be three Condition Associates assigned to just about every specific senate district. He states the system would increase authorities efficiency, both of those from the perspective of a extra concentrated effort to assist people, and monetarily.

“I’m making a seat of the trousers, private sector guess here and indicating [we’d save] about $25-$30 million a yr executing just that,” Laughlin stated. 

Like most authorities reform payments, on the other hand, Laughlin’s and Brewster’s charges sit and wait. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania lawmakers just received a raise.

Thanks to a 1995 regulation which ties legislator expense-of-residing-adjustments (COLA) to the annual rate of inflation, the base income for a Pennsylvania lawmaker went from just over $90,000 to now $95,432. Lawmakers voted versus using a COLA in the course of the 2021 calendar year because of to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The foundation salary is third maximum in the nation guiding California and New York, and Pennsylvania’s 253-person Common Assembly overall body is the greatest fulltime legislature in the place.

Chairman on the powerful Appropriations Committees — Republicans Condition Rep. Stan Saylor and Sen. Pat Browne and Democrats Point out Rep. Matt Bradford and Sen. Vincent Hughes — make $127,942 a yr. Occasion caucus leaders — Republicans Kerry Benninghoff and Kim Ward, and Democrats Joanna McClinton and Jay Costa — make $138,269, and Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler and Senate President Professional Tempore Jake Corman make $148,976 a yr.

“We’re not just below performing,” stated Residence Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton. “We are doing the job back again residence, or we’re doing activities in our districts for men and women through this pandemic. The problem I have is when we have session and we will not vote on expenses.”

Republican leaders Rep. Kerry Benninghoff and Sen. Kim Ward declined remark to FOX43 for this tale.

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