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House to make payroll available

| Monday, Feb. 5, 2007

HARRISBURG -- Speaker Dennis O'Brien, R-Philadelphia, today directed the chief clerk's office to make the complete House payroll available to the public.

His action follows a story published Saturday by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, saying that the clerk's office allows people to view only 15 to 20 salaries at a time from the 1,700-person, taxpayer-financed House payroll.

"It was typical of something the Soviet Union might put together," said Harrisburg activist Gene Stilp, a legislative reformer. "It was obstructionist."

The payroll became an issue when lawmakers in both the House and Senate disclosed they had paid more than $3.6 million in bonuses to legislative staffers over the past two years -- bonuses that hit $15,000 to $20,000 in the top range. More than $3.3 million of the bonuses were doled out in the House -- $2.4 million alone by House Democrats.

But the new policy won't include bonuses being listed on the payroll, said Bill Patton, an O'Brien spokesman. That's an issue that will be considered by the reform commission recently launched by O'Brien. The legislative caucuses last week released bonuses from the 2005-2006 session after Senate Republicans first put out their list.

The full payroll -- showing each staffer's annual salary -- will be available for inspection starting Feb. 16 and will be published once a year.

"It's public information," said O'Brien's spokesman Bill Patton. "It ought to be easier to access by everyone."

But Stilp said the payroll ought to be on the Internet so it can be "accessed by everyone in the state." A list available in the chief clerk's office would still require a trip to Harrisburg.

Moreover, Stilp said every legislator on his or her web page ought to provide a link to the salary information. In addition, he said, past salaries and bonuses should be available to allow citizens to determine "whether bonuses were higher in election years."

Stilp today asked the U.S. attorneys office in Harrisburg to investigate the bonuses and expanded his lawsuit over the bonuses filed in Commonwealth Court.

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