PA: Lawmakers rack up $4 million in per diem costs during session

By   /   January 14, 2013  /   No Comments

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG – As the new legislative session begins, here’s 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 diem payments 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 annual 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 diem costs during the 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 payments 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, D-Washington, used $30,000 in per diems to pay rent on an apartment in Harrisburg – despite the fact that the money is supposed to cover travel expenses.

Contact Boehm at and follow @PAIndependent on Twitter.


Eric is a reporter for and former bureau chief for Pennsylvania Independent. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he enjoys great weather and low taxes while writing about state governments, pensions, labor issues and economic/civil liberty. Previously, he worked for more than three years in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, covering Pennsylvania state politics and occasionally sneaking across the border to Delaware to buy six-packs of beer. He has also lived (in order of desirability) in Brussels, Belgium, Pennsburg, Pa., Fairfield, Conn., and Rochester, N.Y. His work has appeared in Reason Magazine, National Review Online, The Freeman Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Examiner and elsewhere. He received a bachelor's degree from Fairfield University in 2009, but he refuses to hang on his wall until his student loans are fully paid off sometime in the mid-2020s. When he steps away from the computer, he enjoys drinking craft beers in classy bars, cheering for an eclectic mix of favorite sports teams (mostly based in Philadelphia) and traveling to new places.


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