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January 17, 2013 | By | Posted in WatchBlog

WATCHBLOG: Lawmaker asks colleagues to give up per diems

By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent

HARRISBURG — State Rep. Dan Truitt, R-Chester, put himself in an interesting position this legislative session, staging a policy crusade against benefits of his colleagues.

Once again, Truitt is asking fellow lawmakers to give up per diem payments in exchange for an expense-based reimbursement system.

TRUITT: The second-term, Republican lawmaker from Chester County is hoping to see the Pennsylvania legislature ban per diems for lawmakers in exchange for a receipt-based reimbursement system.

“Taking a page directly out of the manual on ‘how to win friends,’ I will soon re-introduce legislation completely banning legislative per-diems,” Truitt quipped in a co-sponsorship memo.

Truitt, who is in his second term, sponsored a similar measure last session. He received more than a dozen co-sponsors. But the proposals never made it through the legislative process.

Per diems are flat rates that lawmakers can receive as reimbursement for travel, food and lodging on days involving legislative-related work. Federally-set rates were about $160 per day for a trip to Harrisburg, on top of a lawmaker’s annual $83,000 pay.

But the system is frequently criticized a cushy way to fatten up wallets. Many state lawmakers, for this reason or others, opt to turn in receipts for expense-based reimbursement instead.

Truitt said switching to an expense-based system offers transparency and fairness to taxpayers – as well as lawmakers. The state could even come out ahead financially, he said.

“If we pass this, everyone will get all their legitimate expenses, and not a penny more,” he said. “I think it would do wonders for trust in the legislature.”

So far, Truitt said he’s had no grief from lawmakers. He said he believes he’ll get their support once they understand that he is not proposing to take away all reimbursements – just a switch to an expense-based system, like those in private sector.

In just over 24 hours after Truitt asked for support, Truitt’s bill netted nine other co-sponsors. This has made Truitt optimistic that maybe, just maybe, he’ll get other lawmakers on board.

“We just hope that more people will get past the fear of what does it mean for them, and they’ll sign on,” Truitt said.

Contact Melissa Daniels at melissa@paindependent.com

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Melissa Daniels is a reporter for PA Independent. She can be reached at 717-350-0962 or Melissa@PAIndependent.com

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