State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Legislative audit finds more spent, less stashed, and few recommendations heeded

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Apr 24, 2013 2:35 PM

Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

The annual audit report on the General Assembly’s internal finances shows lawmakers spent nearly $307 million last fiscal year and have continued a number of practices that auditors discourage.

Auditors are making some familiar recommendations to the General Assembly about how it manages its money. Legislative staff say roughly 36 checkbooks are scattered throughout General Assembly – auditors found they were riddled with errors, and at least one of them was used to pay an employee’s parking ticket.

The report notes the salaries of some House employees exceeds the maximum pay range, without any formal document overriding the upper limit. The House also lacks a standard leave policy to match the consistent policy throughout state Senate offices. And throughout the Legislature, employees aren’t required to itemize expenses they pay for with a credit card when they get reimbursed.

“To move to a detailed credit card receipt structure, we would need the leadership of the four caucuses to institute that policy change,” said Rep. Gordon Denlinger (R-Lancaster), who chairs the Legislative Audit Advisory Commission. “Currently, just the signed, you know, the signature page indicating the total, the establishment, the date, is considered sufficient.”

Government reform activists who have long taken up the General Assembly’s spending as a pet project of annual outrage were at the meeting to approve the audit report.

“I know in the world I live in, if I don’t give an itemized document accounting for how I’ve spent company money, I’m called in [for] question. I’m audited,” said Eric Epstein, with Rock the Capital. “I don’t think that these guys have ever really earned the right to get the benefit of the doubt.”

The report also shows lawmakers socked away roughly $140 million last fiscal year – just in case a budget impasse keeps the legislative machines humming past June.

That’s a smaller amount than the roughly $183 million reserved the year before. But government reform activists still criticize lawmakers for keeping such a kitty, and auditors have recommended the Legislature identify an ideal number for a surplus.

The overall spending within the Legislature and its service agencies last fiscal year increased over year previous, when spending was at nearly $299 million.

81 percent – or about 249 dollars -- of the Legislature’s money in the 2011-12 fiscal year went to payroll and benefits.

This entry has been edited since it was originally posted. 


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