Senate Budget Hides Millions in ‘Walking Around Money’

Member Group : Commonwealth Foundation

Commonwealth Foundation
Contact: Gina Diorio, [email protected], 862-703-6670

Senate Budget Hides Millions in ‘Walking-Around Money’
Budget Plan Flush with Slush Fund Increases

December 9, 2015, HARRISBURG, Pa.—The state Senate’s $30.8 billion budget plan rushed through Monday hides a controversial secret: an $85 million increase in "walking-around money," or WAMs.

Typically controlled by legislative leaders and used for pet projects in their home districts, WAMs are funds that legislators sneak into budgets under the guise of economic development, cultural activities, and even business assistance.

"With Pennsylvania families already facing a tax burden of more than $17,000 per year, it’s mind-boggling that legislators would demand even more so they can fund pet projects and events in their districts," stated Matthew Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation. "By claiming this spending is for things like ‘community and business assistance,’ legislators hope taxpayers won’t know what it really is: slush funds legislators use to advance their own agenda at taxpayers’ expense."

The Senate budget would expand WAMs by 189 percent, including reinstituting programs previously nixed specifically to eliminate WAMs.

* These programs existed in prior years, but were eliminated in an effort to get WAMs out of the Budget

In the past, these programs have funded a number of questionable projects, including:

* A $200,000 Pennsylvania First grant to a Kraft plant, which is now planning to close its doors after merging with Heinz

* A $3 million grant to the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, which used the money to help open an American Eagle Outfitters headquarters, only to have the distribution center close this past July

* A $200,000 grant to upgrade administrative infrastructure at the Philadelphia Dance Company