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January 14, 2013 | By | Posted in WatchBlog

WATCHBLOG: Lawmakers racked up $4 million in per diem costs during last session, AP reports

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG – As the new legislative session begins, a reminder that it pays to be one of Pennsylvania’s 253 full-time lawmakers.

MONEY FOR NOTHING: Lawmakers don’t get paid their weight in gold, but they make a pretty penny – including $4 million in per diems over the last two years.

And we don’t just mean because of the $83,000 salary – more than $30,000 higher than the median household income in the Keystone State, by the way.

The Associated Press on Monday reported that lawmakers in Harrisburg racked up nearly $4 million in per diems during the two-year 2011-12 legislative session.

From the AP:

“Lawmakers are not required to show receipts for their expenses and the payments are in addition to their annual base salary, which is $83,802 this year.

“Rates for travel in various cities are set by the federal government and the allowances for daily expenses may be adjusted seasonally. Rates last year for trips to Harrisburg were about $160 a day. For overnight travel to Philadelphia, they were $242 a day.

“Information about individual legislators’ expenses is difficult to obtain unless they voluntarily make it available. Getting a list requires filing right-to-know requests with the House and Senate.”

Records obtained by the AP showed state Rep. Dom Costa, D-Allegheny, leading the way with more than $55,000 in per diems during the two years.  He told the news agency he was “not apologizing for per diems” and that they were “part of the job.”

We’ve previously reported on how lawmakers use per diems to pad their wallets – including how they rang up more than $100,000 in per diems for work during weekends and spent $470,000 on meals and other munchies.

And back in December, we told you about how Costa and state Sen. Tim Solobay used $30,000 in per diems to pay rent on an apartment in Harrisburg – despite the fact that per diems are supposed to reimburse for travel expenses.

Contact Boehm at Eric@PAIndependent.com and follow @PAIndependent on Twitter.

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Eric Boehm is a reporter for PA Independent. He can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com or at (717) 350-0963.

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