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The Legislature's per diems: Abolish them

| Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, 9:11 p.m.

It's pretty stunning to think that members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly are reimbursed for their expenses without documentation. It's even more stunning to think they can turn around and turn a profit from those receipt-less expenses.

But, then again, this is Pennsylvania, the State of Corruption.

We're talking — again — about per diems, those daily payments taxpayers make to house and feed lawmakers in the state capital when the Legislature is in session. Taxpayers shelled out nearly $4 million during the 2011-12 parade. Our leaders are paid a set rate of anywhere from $160 daily to $242 daily, depending upon where their official duties take them.

Our state representatives and senators should be reimbursed for work-related expenses, just as anyone else is. But they should be reimbursed for actual expenses and required to submit receipts, just as are we mere mortals in the real world.

Furthermore, per diems shouldn't be a profit center for legislators. Some have gone together to buy houses in Harrisburg, using the per diems to pay their mortgages. Down the road, technically, they could sell those houses at a profit. Is that really a proper use of per diems?

Pennsylvania legislators do have the option of turning in their receipts for actual reimbursement. Some do. The rest should follow their lead, do the accountable thing, then vote to end the practice of per diems.

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