Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Harrisburg's slush fund funny business

The Legislature once again is holding back on telling taxpayer's how much many it keeps hidden for itself.

Harrisburg's slush fund funny business

Not that anyone needs another example of how Pennsylvania's lowly legislature displays disdain for taxpayers, but its leadership is offering another example anyway.

This time, the issue is lawmakers' questionable slush fund, tax dollars it hoards on an annual basis no matter the state of the state's finances.

It's sort of a larger version of how lawmakers give themselves annual pay raises no matter the state of the overall economy and no matter how well, if at all, they provide public service.

The slush fund, delicately referred to as "legislative accounts," is money controlled by leaders of both parties to be used for any purpose caucus leaders decide.

The most recent audit (for 2011-12) showed $141 million held back in reserve.

The amount is actually down from the heydays of legislative abuse (you remember the 2005 late-night pay grab, yes?) when it was $215 million.

But this week, long-time legislative critic Eric Epstein of the citizen-action group Rock the Capital, notes an annual audit of the accounts that used to be released in December, remains under wraps.

You can read a Harrisburg Patriot-News article on the issue here.

You don't think it's being held back because the entire House and half the Senate faces a primary election next week, do you?

It's probably coincidence that the audit was released in April last year when no lawmakers were on the ballot, and that it was released in 2012 after the primary when lawmakers were on the ballot.

I mean, coincidences do happen, right?

And I suppose in a $29 billion general fund budget, one that this year faces a reported $1 billion deficit, lawmakers' reserves amount to just a taste of tax dollars.

Plus, I feel certain that by the time the new state budget comes due July 1, lawmakers gladly will donate their (your) money to make the best use of public funds in providing the best possible service to the state's citizens.

Don't you agree?

 

 

 

 

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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