Thursday, February 15, 2007

No more free lunches?

Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch in Pennsylvania?

If you're a member of the Pennsylvania Legislature, you've enjoyed a free lunch (and breakfasts and dinner) for years.

Not only do legislators get $148 a day for meals and lodging every day they're in session in Harrisburg, but party leaders have been ordering catered lunches for those hard-working legislators who can't leave their desk to enjoy lunch in a fancy restaurant with a lobbyist (who always picks up the tab.)

House Majority Leader Bill "Amnesia" DeWeese, who recently forgot to mention he handed out $2 million in bonus money to staffers, has vowed to stop buying lunch for Democratic Caucus members.

By "buying" lunch, I am being facetious. DeWeese sent the bill for the lunches to you and me (the beleaguered Pennsylvania taxpayer). And how much does it cost to feed the 102-member Democratic Caucus? Up to $6,300 a day, according to published accunts. We're not talking about the value menu at McDonald's here.

DeWeese's decision to discontinue the meals was among his efforts "to change the way things are being done in Harrisburg," DeWeese's mouthpiece told the Harrisburg Patriot-News. Let me get this straight. It's OK to hand out $2 million in secret bonuses to staffers, but reform to DeWeese means he will put his foot down when it comes to $6,300?

DeWeese's spokesma Tom Andrews couldn't say how much money the Democratic caucus would save by ending the catered lunches.

House Republicans also have provided catered lunches for their members, and the two caucuses spent nearly $200,000 in the 1997-98 legislative session, according to a Patriot-News review of the practice in 1999.

Imagine that. Spending $200,000 for catered meals for people who already collect $148 a day in meal money. The political aristocracy is alive and well in Pennsylvania. And the monarchy continues to sustain itself on the backs of the peasants.

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