By the book: Pa. lawmakers should be forced to file receipts

Pa. lawmakers should be forced to file receipts

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It’s standard practice in the business world for employees to get reimbursed for work-related expenses by turning in receipts.

The Pennsylvania Legislature is not the business world.

Sen. Randy Vulakovich, a Republican from Shaler, wants to change that, at least a little. He’s offering Senate Bill 1291, which would replace the automatic $159 a day that legislators can get when in Harrisburg or out of their districts on state business with a requirement that they submit receipts showing their actual costs. Public officials would be reimbursed for every dollar of legitimate expenses, as long as they’re backed up with a bill of sale.

That means bye-bye to the unvouchered per diem for the lawmakers who choose to collect them, and it’s about time. Pennsylvania’s other state employees already follow the receipt-for-reimbursement policy, so why can’t the General Assembly?

If the Legislature and Gov. Tom Corbett enact this common-sense proposal, Pennsylvania will join the small vanguard of states that follow this common business practice. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, last year Ohio, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Rhode Island gave lawmakers no per diems.

Some Pennsylvanians would argue that by paying $84,012 — one of the highest legislative base salaries in the country — state senators and representatives should be made to cover their own job-related expenses for lodging, travel and meals. But we won’t go that far.

They should, however, make a specific accounting to the taxpayers of what they have spent in the state’s name. The only way to do that, as Mr. Vulakovich says, is by showing a receipt.

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