PA Legislative Per Diems Viewed by Legislators as “Part of Compensation Package”

From Democracy Rising PA (http://www.democracyrisingpa.com):

Lawmakers continue to take a second salary, tax-free, for purported expenses without ever proving that taxpayers actually owe them the money. Earlier this month, Rock the Capital (http://www.rockthecapital.com/) released a report detailing the per diems each lawmaker received in 2011. Visit their web site for the report.

Here’s how Dennis Owens covered the story for ABC 27 in Harrisburg: PA Lawmakers cashing in on per diems (http://www.abc27.com/story/18995189/lawmakers-cash-in-on-per-diems-extra-cash-for-showing-up?clienttype=printable).

What’s striking about this report is the admission by Rep. Rick Geist, Blair, that per diems are not reimbursement for expenses, as they are intended and as the business world uses per diems. Instead, “This is all part of the compensation package. If and when the General Assembly wants to change that compensation package they can,” Geist said.

So per diems are compensation, not reimbursements for expenses. There’s just one problem: Article 2, Section 8  of the PA Constitution. It plainly says that lawmakers are entitled to receive “salary and mileage…and no other compensation whatever…”

Per Geist, per diems are compensation but they are neither salary nor mileage. So the real salary we pay lawmakers isn’t $82,000 of taxable income. It’s $82,000 of taxable income and another $20,000 to $30,000 of non-taxable income in the form of unaccountable per diems.

This will continue until enough citizens force their own legislators to “change the compensation package.”

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