Saturday, August 30, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

More Philly Pol Perks

Anytime there's news about perks for state lawmakers you can be sure Philly members will be represented.

More Philly Pol Perks

Of the many projects that Dwight Evans has worked on for the betterment of his district and neighborhood, the Ogontz Plaza maybe at the top of the list. (Sarah J. Glover / Staff Photographer)
Of the many projects that Dwight Evans has worked on for the betterment of his district and neighborhood, the Ogontz Plaza maybe at the top of the list. (Sarah J. Glover / Staff Photographer)

Here we go again.

Another look at unnecessary taxpayer-funded perks for our state lawmakers leads to uncovering more unncessary spending by Philadelphia lawmakers.

Usually, such reporting tags Philly Democratic Rep. Mark Cohen, long a perk king specializing in collecting per diems, expenses of about $160 a-day for which no receipts are required.

But a new report on lawmakers' perks tags Philly Democratic Sen. Mick Stack, who says he wants to run for governor, and Philly Democratic Rep. Dwight Evans, who's currently in the news for a probe of spending by a non-profit group he founded.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports Monday that taxpayers could save at least $8 million a-year if the nation's largest full-time Legislature was reduced in size.

The savings would come from salaries, benefits, travel and lodging. We now pay $34 million in salaries and benefits, and $7 million in travel costs and per diem expenses, the newspaper says.

Republican House Speaker Sam Smith again has a bill to reduce the size of the House 20 percent, from 203 members to 153.

Here's an excerpt from The Tribune's reporting:

"Pennsylvania pays its legislators a base salary of $83,802 and guarantees perks such as pensions averaging $31,314 and comprehensive health care coverage costing them 1 percent of wages. They get state-paid cars if they choose, and about $160 per day for food and lodging...Taxpayers paid more than $3 million for lawmakers' vehicles, fuel and mileage reimbursement last session, records show."

And Stack and Evans?

Stack drew notice for $600 spent on "car washes." The newspaper said neither he nor his staff responded to requests for comment.

And Evans gets attention for driving the highest-priced state-leased vehicle: $644 a-month for a 2009 Mercury Mariner hybrid. He told the newspaper the state Department of General Services "sets up the lease...and sets the price."

Maybe he can have Stack wash it for him. Or maybe he could drive something costing a little less.

Then again, without such unnecessary spending Philly could risk losing its rep for abusing taxpayer-funded perks.

And I, for one, have full confidence that rep is not in danger.

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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