No More Per Diem Piggy Bank for Lawmakers

Member Group : Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania

September 28, 2012:

CAP previously brought the 2011 Per Diem King to your attention, he collected $39,000 tax free:

"Members of the General Assembly don’t have to bother with receipts or actually tracking mileage in order to be reimbursed by the taxpayers. Instead, are automatically eligible for a "per diem" of up to $158 per day* just for showing up in Harrisburg (and some other official meetings) whether they spend that much or not. Since the money is supposed to be used to cover expenses, at least in theory, it is generally not subject to be taxed by the IRS, Social Security, etc. For comparison, if your take home pay was $158 then your gross pay would have to be at least $197.50 (more if you add back state taxes, etc.) and that is just for one day!

"Enter Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia), the 2011 per diem king. In addition to his $82,000 annual salary, he collected over $39,000 in per diems thanks to the generosity of taxpayers."

To put an end to these sorts of abuses Rep. Dan Truitt (R-Chester) introduced two pieces of legislation, a resolution to stop per diems (HR 853) and a bill ending the practice (HB 2637). Why a resolution and a bill changing the law? The House can undo the resolution at the beginning of the next term when they approve the Rules with very little fanfare or scrutiny. In addition, a resolution would only affect the way the House handles expenses. On the other hand, a change to the law would affect both chambers of the General Assembly and be more challenging to reverse.

To make sure that the legislature is only reimbursed for actual expenses you need to do two things:

Contact Rep. Sam Smith 717-787-3845 and Rep. Mike Turzai 717-772-9943, they control the legislative calendar. Tell them you want HR 853 and HB 2637 brought to a vote prior to the election.

Contact your Representative. If you need their phone number, or aren’t sure which district you are in go here. Tell them you think it’s time for the General Assembly to show receipts for expenses, just like almost everyone in the private sector. Ask them to co-sponsor both items and let them know you expect them to vote for passage.

It is unconscionable that in this day and age members of the General Assembly have no accountability in proving that they actually incur an expense before getting even more of our money. And, it is long past time to end the absurd practice of handing out extra money just for showing up to work.

It is worth mentioning Rep. Truitt (R-Chester) is a CAP member and part of our Ben Franklin Project. His proposed legislation is another dividend for CAP investors who want what we all want: to fix PA.

*Note: The $158 per day rate was effective for 2011; in 2012 the per diem is $163. According to House and Senate rules only members living more than 50 miles from the Capitol are eligible to receive the per diem.

Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania (CAP) is a non-profit organization founded to raise the standard of living of all Pennsylvanians by restoring limited government, economic freedom, and personal responsibility. By empowering the Commonwealth’s employers and taxpayers to break state government’s "Iron Triangle" of career politicians, bureaucrats, and Big Government lobbyists, this restoration will occur and Pennsylvania will prosper.