Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dinniman: End unvouchered expenses for legislators

It's not often I agree with a Democrat, but state Sen. Andy Dinniman of Chester County makes a good case for eliminating unvouchered expenses for Pennsylvania lawmakers in this Letter to the Editor originally published in The Pottstown Mercury. The letter was a response to an editorial criticizing lawmakers for collecting per diems during the state's 101-day budget impasse.
Per diem system in Harrisburg needs reforming

In response to Friday's editorial that took aim at the $532,000 in taxpayer-funded per diems paid to state legislators during just the first two months of the recent budget impasse, I agree with your criticism of this system for allowing the per diems after the July 1 budget deadline, and I join you in seeking to reform a system that I don't believe should allow "unvouchered" per diems in the first place.

As your editorial pointed out, per diems are the $163 per day that state representatives and state senators can get paid for food and lodging every day their respective chambers are in session or when they are on other legislative business in Harrisburg or anywhere else in the Commonwealth.

The fact that they are unvouchered means that elected officials can take them even if they do not actually spend the night in Harrisburg or eat out at restaurants. Or, if they do incur living and meal expenses that only cost them $90, for example, they automatically get the $163 per diem anyway.

Because I disagree with unvouchered per diems, I have not taken a per diem in the three-plus years I have served as a state senator, and I certainly would not and did not take one during the recent budget impasse.

If legislators have justifiable expenses, they should submit the proper proof of expenditure like other state employees are required to do.

In short, by not taking a per diem since taking office on June 19, 2006, I have saved my fellow taxpayers $44,082. That's not a huge savings in view of a state budget totaling $27.8 billion, but it remains money saved.

It's time to stop wasting taxpayers' dollars. It's time to end unvouchered per diems for state legislators.

Andy Dinniman, of West Whiteland, is state Senator for Pennsylvania's 19th Senatorial District.

Originally posted at TONY PHYRILLAS

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