New lease in life of lawmaker promising
By Eric Heyl
Lindsey Gamble has a sweet deal for state Rep. Dom Costa — and for Pennsylvania taxpayers.
You don't know Gamble. She isn't involved in state government. But Gamble could aid the Stanton Heights Democrat, and by extension the people he supposedly serves, by helping rein in his out-of-control per diems.
The Trib reported on Monday that during the past two years, Costa collected the most in legislative per diems, which ostensibly cover lawmakers' work-related food and lodging costs. But there's no requirement lawmakers document how they spend the money — as much as $242 per day — leading to cynical suspicions much of the cash is pocketed.
Of the $3.9 million in per diems doled out in the 2011-12 legislative session, Costa received $55,495. That's an average of nearly $28,000 annually on top of his base salary of $83,802.
Costa insisted the per diems shouldn't be described as perks, and I'd agree. Egregious noblesse entitlement probably is a better term. But however they are described, the former Pittsburgh police chief swears it's not his fault he racks up so much in per diems. He said he often attends legislative committee meetings in Philadelphia, where costs are higher than they are in Harrisburg.
Costa didn't say how often he attends such meetings, but a cursory examination of Philadelphia hotel prices reveals the difficulty he faces in minimizing his per diems while still performing his duties.
One of the more reasonably priced places in Center City is the Hotel Palomar at $192 per day. To keep Costa's per diems under $28,000 annually would mean restricting his committee meeting stays in the City of Brotherly Love to just 145 days a year.
Sure, that's more than twice as many days as the 67 the House actually was in session last year, but it's still not even five months.
What Costa needs is a modestly priced Philadelphia apartment. That's where Gamble comes in.
A leasing consultant at PMC Property Management in Philly, Gamble is listing a charming, two-bedroom place in Rittenhouse Square that rents for an unbelievably low $1,895 a month.
“It's very large, centrally located, has 10-foot-high ceilings and the windows let in lots of sunlight,” she said. “Probably the only drawback for someone in government would be the fact that the building doesn't have a doorman, but it does have key-code secure entry.”
The lack of a doorman shouldn't be a deal-breaker. Costa could rent the apartment for the next two years for about $45,000. He'd never have reason to miss a committee meeting in Philadelphia. Best of all, he could cut his exorbitant per diems by approximately $10,000 over the next two years.
I should charge Costa a finder's fee. He should owe me not only for locating such stellar accommodations, but for providing him an opportunity to appear as though he's being relatively thrifty.
What's stopping me? I just wouldn't feel right doing that to someone so diligent in declining to gorge at the public trough.
Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or email@example.com.
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