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WATCHBLOG: Per diem kings for January 2013

By   /   March 1, 2013  /   1 Comment

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania lawmakers claimed more than $143,000 in per diems during the month of January, with state Rep. Chris Sainato, D-Lawrence, leading the way.

FIRST PLACE: State Rep. Chris Sainato, D-Lawrence.

FIRST PLACE: State Rep. Chris Sainato, D-Lawrence.

Per diems are a part of lawmakers’ overall compensation package and are included in the state constitution, which provides that members of the General Assembly should be paid for mileage.  The payment totals are based on IRS reimbursement amounts for daily expenses and travel.

Lawmakers can claim per diems on any day when they are engaged in legislative activity – not only days when they are in session in Harrisburg – and they are not required to turn in receipts or otherwise report how the funds are used, though some do so voluntarily.

Lawmakers who live less than 50 miles from Harrisburg are not eligible for per diems, though they – like all lawmakers – can be reimbursed for expenses by turning in receipts.

Without commentary or reaction, we offer the list of January’s top 10 per diem recipients, the first of a new monthly feature from PA Independent.  All figures are from the chief clerks of the state House and state Senate, and were obtained via Pennsylvania’s open records law.

SECOND PLACE: State Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer.

SECOND PLACE: State Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer.

  1. Rep. Chris Sainato, D-Lawrence:  $3,021
  2. Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer: $2,650
  3. Rep. Paul Costa, D-Allegheny: $2,629
  4. Rep. Dom Costa, D-Allegheny: $2598
  5. Rep. Robert Matzie, D-Beaver: $2,487
  6. Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks: $2,435
  7. Rep. Ted Harhai, D-Westmoreland: $2,428
  8. Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland: $2,317
  9. Rep. Mark Cohen, D-Philadelphia: $2,276
  10. Rep. Jaret Gibbons, D-Lawrence: $2,272

An important caveat: Lawmakers can claim per diems up to 90 days after the expenses are incurred, so per diems paid in January could include expenses incurred during the last two months of 2012.  Likewise, expenses incurred in January could be filed for reimbursement in the coming months.

THIRD PLACE: State Rep. Paul Costa, D-Allegheny.

THIRD PLACE: State Rep. Paul Costa, D-Allegheny.

Some fun statistics about the per diem data for January:

  • The state House was in session for six days during the month.
  • The state Senate was in session for six days during the month.
  • A total of 145 of the General Assembly’s 253 members claimed at least one per diem during the month (11 of 50 state senators; 134 of 203 state representatives).
  • Depending on the type of per diem and the distance a member has to travel, the per diems range from $51 to $242.

All told, 58 members of the General Assembly (all from the state House) claimed more than $1,000 in per diems during the month of January.  State Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, topped the list of senators with $808 in per diems during January.

And since the top 10 were all Democrats, we’ll add that state Rep. Dick Hess, R-Bedford, ranked eleventh on the monthly list.  He collected $2,216.

Lawmakers are paid an annual salary of more than $83,000.

Click here for a full list of reimbursements.

Per Diem Totals – January 2013

Boehm is bureau chief for PA Independent and can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com

 

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Eric is the national regulatory reporter for Watchdog.org. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. His work has appeared in Reason Magazine, National Review Online, The Freeman Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Examiner and Fox News. He was once featured in a BuzzFeed list-icle. Follow him on Twitter @EricBoehm87.