Bushels of Bibles for Pennsylvania Lawmakers

Mario Cattabiani has a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer on the cost of new Bibles (and other holy books) for lawmakers to be sworn in on – $13,700.

House members got to pick from more than a dozen choices, ranging in price from $30 to $90. Each was embossed with the lawmaker’s name at an additional cost of $15 per book, according to public records. …

State Rep. Chris Ross (R., Chester) got a copy of the Quran. He said yesterday that he took the Jan. 6 oath on his own Bible, but ordered the Muslim holy book because he had always wanted to read it.

State Rep. Dan Frankel also got a Quran, but it was an ordering mistake. He traded it in for another copy of the Torah – the sixth he has received from taxpayers since first being elected in 1998.

I filmed a clip for CBS 21 on this story as well.

This is hardly the only example of taxpayer funding to be used to fund the personal libraries of Pennsylvania lawmakers. Rep. Mark Cohen bought over $30,000 in books at taxpayer expense over three years.

Lawmakers make the point that is a “small ticket item” in a $29 billion budget, and they’d be right. But as we have pointed out, there are hundreds of “small ticket items” in the budget, costing taxpayers millions (or billions, depending on your cutoff point). Spending like this makes it hard to justify why Pennsylvania needed/deserved a bailout from federal taxpayers.

Indeed, our latest report, Government on a Diet: Spending Tips 2009, identifies close to $5 billion in wasteful state spending. Ceremonial bibles are not specifically identified, though legislative funds are, under the category “Self-Service Government” – extravagant examples of spending that benefit lawmakers/government officials, not the general public.