The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 24, 2013

Audit: Legislature’s spending increased by $8M last year

The Tribune-Democrat

HARRISBURG — Total spending by the General Assembly increased about $8 million last year, and its year-end surplus declined, according to an internal report released Wednesday.

Legislative spending was nearly $307 million in the year that ended in June, an $8 million increase, the Legislative Audit Advisory Commission said. The House spent $178 million, the Senate $96 million.

The largest legislative spending category was payroll and benefits, which cost the public $249 million last year.

The surplus fell to $140 million, a drop of about $43 million from the previous year. Lawmakers justify it as insurance against a potential budget standoff with the governor, and commission chairman Rep. Gordon Denlinger, R-Lancaster, said it’s currently about as small as it should go.

“We’re right at the edge of the number,” Denlinger said.

The reserve reached

$215 million in 2006 but has been falling since. Total spending was $318 million three years ago, and $327 million in 2008-09.

The auditors suggest the House do away with the checkbooks controlled by senior members, arguing that spending should be funneled through a central system. They also say the House should consider standardizing leave policies, as the Senate has done.

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