Tuesday, March 18, 2008

That $241 million slush fund

It's not often I find myself agreeing with a Democrat, but state Rep. John Galloway, a Democrat from Bucks County, is on to something.

The Pennsylvania Legislature has been stashing taxpayer dollars away in slush funds known as leadership accounts for years.

Each year, the Legislature skims money from the General Fund budget and squirrels it away in secret accounts controlled by the leadership of the two parties in the House and Senate.

The slush fund is up to $241.5 million as of June 2007, an increase of $25 million from the previous year, according the Legislative Audit Advisory Commission.

An article in the Bucks County Courier Times by reporter Kori Walter examines the practice:
House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, a Greene County Democrat, said in a prepared statement that his office is still reviewing the Legislative Audit Advisory Commission recommendations. He didn't indicate whether he'd support a policy limiting the Legislature’s surpluses or ending the checkbook system.

Other lawmakers called the large surpluses indefensible.

"To think that legislative leaders can have hundreds of millions of dollars that they can do anything with and no oversight is the kind of thing that should anger taxpayers in Pennsylvania," said Rep. John Galloway, D-140.
I'm with Rep. Galloway on this one. All the talk about reforming the way Harrisburg does business has been that -- mostly talk. Until the Legislature cleans up its own house, including doing away with leadership slush funds, the status quo rules in the state Capitol.

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