$65 Million in Earmarks Hidden in Stateâ€™s Fiscal Code
Bill Sends Tax Dollars to Dozens of Targeted Projects
August 16, 2017, Harrisburg, Pa.ï¿½"Pennsylvanians shouldnâ€™t need a decoder ring to know how their tax dollars are being spent. But lawmakers have hidden more than $65 million in vaguely worded earmarks in the Senate-passed fiscal code, according to an analysis released today by the Commonwealth Foundation.
The fiscal code (HB 453), which awaits consideration in the House, is a companion bill to the state budget, detailing how state funds will be spent. Itâ€™s also become a clearinghouse for lobbyist-backed earmarks that bypass accountability measures built into the normal legislative process.
â€œThese backroom deals for targeted projects are just another example of state governmentâ€™s spending addiction,â€ commented Nathan Benefield, vice president and COO for the Commonwealth Foundation. â€œEarmarks disguised in arcane language side-step the important legislative vetting process that exists to protect Pennsylvanians.â€
Click here for an interactive version of the map below showing the number and dollar amount of earmarks by county and a searchable/sortable database of 70+ earmarks.
(Map: Number of Earmarks by County)
According to one earmark, â€œAt least $5,000,000 shall be distributed to a hospital in a city of the third class in a home rule county that was formerly a county of the second class A.â€ This obscurely-worded funding is likely meant for Crozer-Keystone Health System in Chester City.
Another says, â€œ$850,000 shall be allocated to a special rehabilitation facility in Peer Group Number 13 in a city of the third class with a population between 115,000 and 120,000 based upon 2010 census data.â€ Decoding this earmark indicates this money will go to a facility in Allentown.
This next earmark targets UPMC Hamot in Erie, but you wouldnâ€™t know it from the description: â€œA qualifying academic medical center located in a county of the third class with a population between 279,000 and 282,000 under the 2010 Federal decennial census shall receive an additional $1,000,000.â€
Philadelphia (12), Allegheny (5), and Delaware (5) are the counties with the most known earmarks in the fiscal code.
â€œMany of these programs are so loosely worded that their true costs and beneficiaries are nearly impossible to determineâ€ continued Benefield. â€œRegardless of these programsâ€™ merits, lawmakers should not spend millions of dollars with little accountability and no transparency. Pennsylvanians deserve a full vetting of these expenditures, especially when lawmakers and Gov. Wolf threaten tax hikes to pay for them.â€
Nathan Benefield and other Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Gina Diorio at 862-703-6670 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.
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