Harrisburg's per diem racket: Pigs at the trough
State lawmakers' seemingly limitless appetite for unaccountable per diems — no receipts required — becomes outright gluttony at the public trough when they collect such payments for days when the General Assembly's neither in session nor voting, which cost taxpayers $1.3 million in 2011 and 2012.
Per diems, $51 to $185, supposedly cover lawmakers' food and lodging — on top of other perks and salaries of at least $83,802. Unaccountable and untaxed, per diems too often are wholly undeserved when the General Assembly is not in session.
How else to describe lawmakers collecting non-session per diems by attending hearings of committees to which they don't belong? Rep. Mark Cohen, D-Philadelphia — tops in 2011-12 non-session per diems collected, at more than $38,000 — admits doing just that.
Rep. Brad Roae, R-Crawford County, sponsored legislation limiting such per diems to testifying witnesses and committee members, and ending weekend per diems except for days during, just before or just after in-session days. Those would be small steps forward, yet per diems can't pass any “sniff test” unless receipts are required and lawmakers are reimbursed for those amounts, not issued flat payments.
Lawmakers will gorge on per diems and stick taxpayers with the tab so long as such payments are on Harrisburg's menu. Lavishly compensated and surely able to cover their own expenses, they — not taxpayers — should have to.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.