Pennsylvania Legislative Audit Says Little

A new audit of the Pennsylvania Legislature’s accounts was released earlier this month, and is available via state Rep. Josh Shapiro.

The big news on the audit is that the legislature had $201 million in reserves as of June 30, 2009. This is often cited as a pot of money that could be used to help balance the budget. Legislative leaders, though, often rebut that they need a reserve in case the governor cuts their funding as a budget negotiating ploy. Gov. Rendell – though he wants to spend that money – gave credence to that argument when he signed a stop-gap budget that line-item vetoed all of the legislature’s appropriations (but kept all the funding for his own office).

The audit also includes a summary of how the money was spent, but the categories are so broad “payroll/benefits,” “printing,” “education,” that they give taxpayers no greater understanding as to how their money is spent. In order to answer questions like how much is spent on glossy newsletters to voters, “public service announcements”, leases for office space owned by state legislator’s wives, and the like, we need full spending transparency – i.e. an online database of state spending