Four months behind schedule, but just in time for the expected legislative surplus to make up for revenue shortfalls, the Legislative Audit Advisory Committee (LAAC) will release the audit of the General Assembly for fiscal year 2010-11. The LAAC, chaired by Rep. Gordon Denlinger, Lancaster, has scheduled the meeting for 10:30 on April 4 in Room 113 of the Capitol’s east wing.
Each year, the legislature hires an auditing firm to examine its accounts. Last year the contract was awarded to accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP at a cost of "$198,500 for the audit of the statement of financial affairs; $35,300 for the audit of the advancement account check books; and $28,700 for the performance of the agreed upon procedures."
That’s a total of $262,500 for the annual audit. Click here for the contract summary on the PA Treasury Department’s web site.
• Couldn’t the auditor general do this job for a whole lot less money? The law currently prohibits the auditor general from examining legislative accounts, but aren’t lawmakers looking to save money?
Ever-vigilant, DR began asking for the audit in January. Here’s the history of responses by a spokesman for House Speaker Sam Smith, Jefferson, and the House Chief Clerk’s Office.
January 17: "They had some scheduling issues, but hope to have it all wrapped up next week or the following week. Release should be soon…"
February 5: "Tim, the audit had timing issues with the changeover…. Gordon [Denlinger] plans to release as soon as complete."
March 8: In response to DR’s right-to-know request, the House Chief Clerk replied, "The 2010-2011 audit is expected to be finalized and available by the middle of April."
March 19: "Hopefully sunshined for next week," Smith’s spokesman wrote.
The delay in releasing the audit is hard to explain. The contract was awarded last May. Denlinger is a five-term incumbent and a certified public accountant, so it’s not like he’s a novice. In any event, we’ll finally see the audit next week.
Another Opportunity for Gov. Corbett, but will he take it?
During the gubernatorial election campaign in 2010, DR and Rock the Capital asked candidate Tom Corbett about the legislature’s surplus:
"Do you believe the legislature, unlike executive and judicial agencies with rare exceptions, should be able to carry funds forward that were not expended in the year for which they were appropriated? Please explain."
And here was Corbett’s answer:
"As I stated in my government reform initiative, the General Assembly should not be able to accrue a surplus that, as of late, is over $200 million. While a reasonable operating budget can be maintained to protect the legislature from undue influence from the executive branch, I will work with the General Assembly to cap the legislative accounts at a fraction of its current level. The current legislative surplus should be used to help relieve the pressure created for Pennsylvania taxpayers by the increasing spending in Harrisburg."
Although he has a poor record of fulfilling his campaign pledges with respect to public integrity, the expected surplus could provide Corbett with the opportunity both to begin doing so and to find money to fill any potential revenue shortfall…or to prevent higher property taxes as a result of lower state funding for public schools…or to prevent higher county taxes to make up for cuts in human services…or any number of other things.
We’ll let you know what the audit says next Wednesday and what leadership, if any, Corbett is exercising on the issue.
• Will we be pleasantly surprised when lawmakers voluntarily return our surplus to our Treasury?
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