Pennsylvania Senator Lindsey Wiliams (D-Pittsburgh) is preparing to reintroduce a bill to instruct the state’s chief legislative clerks to post all lawmakers’ taxpayer-funded expenses online.
In a memorandum asking fellow senators to cosponsor her measure, Williams mentioned that she and some other legislators provide online access to may of their public expenditures. Her own website contains a page linking to monthly expense reports. Spending listed includes such items as lodging and office event expenses.
But Williams and other lawmakers who want to report all of their offices’ expenses cannot do so in full because some purchases are made through other funds which senators and representatives don’t directly access. Meanwhile, other many legislators provide no public accounting for their official spending because the law doesn’t direct them to do so.
The senator wrote that is why she is offering her bill to require both the chief House clerk and the chief Senate clerk to present all legislative expenditures to constituents and other interested parties via a searchable website. Reportable items would include all per diems, reimbursements and state-vehicle use as well as caucus expenses for office maintenance and travel.
“The dollars we spend as legislators come from taxpayers,” Williams wrote in her memo. “Taxpayers deserve transparency in knowing how their money is spent.”
Taxpayer-funded expenses and other perquisites have long been contentious matters in Pennsylvania. Last year in the state House, the then-Republican majority took action against one especially controversial perk. As a result of a House resolution, members of that chamber will no longer be permitted reimbursement of a vehicle lease or the use of a state car.
The House measure, introduced by Representative Brad Roae (R-Meadville), does not apply to the Senate, though the representative has attempted to ban the use of state cars for all legislators. Williams has noted she herself does not utilize a state vehicle.
Last session, Williams’s expense-reporting bill was referred to the Senate Rules and Executive Nominations Committee but did not receive a vote. The bill may yet gain traction in the Republican-controlled Senate as it has enjoyed bipartisan support, having had two Republican cosponsors in the previous session.
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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Pennsylvania State Capitol” by Ruhrfisch. CC BY-SA 2.0.