The House Budget Contained in the 2011-12 State Budget
The House of Representatives took an overall reduction of 7.8 percent or $15 million dollars; seven (7) line items were eliminated, and the remaining line items were reorganized to better reflect the actual spending in each area, making it easier for the public to understand how the House of Representatives funds operations.
THIS IS NONSENSE. YOU DON’T MAKE THINGS CLEARER BY OBFUSCATING THEM, WHICH IS WHAT THEY DID. THE REORGANIZATION WAS DESIGNED TO CONFUSE THE PUBLIC AND HIDE FROM BOTH RANK-AND-FILE MEMBERS AND THE PUBLIC THE INCREASE IN SPENDING BY THE HOUSE DURING 2010-11 (THE INCREASE IS SPENDING OVER THE ENACTED BUDGET AMOUNT) AND THE INCREASE FOR 2011-12.
It is the goal of the House to have the appropriations accurately reflect the actual expenses. PLEASE.
Member Compensation Line
The line for “Member Compensation” was combined (thus the appearance of an increase) with other lines to be the sole line representing member’s entire compensation including pay, retirement, and insurance. Historically, these expenses were carried in multiple line items. This consolidation allows the public to see a more accurate representation of the actual expenses of the Legislature.
NONSENSE. YOU CANNOT PROVIDE MORE INFORMATION IN A CONSOLIDATED LINE ITEM THAN IN SEPARATE LINE ITEMS.
The change to the member’s compensation line is not attributed to an increase in pay; there was absolutely no additional pay increase implemented through this budget. Members’ compensation is dictated by Act 51 of 1995; it has not changed as part of this budget.
THE LEGISLATURE DID NOT REPEAL ITS AUTOMATIC COLA ON DECEMBER 1, SO THERE IS A PAY RAISE IN THIS BUDGET. IF THE COLA IS 2%, LAWMAKERS WILL GET A RAISE OF ROUGHLY $1,600 – TWICE AS MUCH AS THEY WILL PAY TOWARD THEIR HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE.
In fact, members will now be paying for a portion of their benefits further reducing costs.
WHY SHOULD PEOPLE BELIEVE THAT MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE ARE ACTUALLY PAYING THIS INSTEAD OF FINDING SOME OTHER WAY FOR TAXPAYERS TO PAY IT? ANY DETAIL THAT MIGHT SHOW AN ACTUAL CONTRIBUTION BY LAWMAKERS IS NOT AVAILABLE.
Previous budgets put the members’ benefits in other line items making them harder to identify.
THIS IS MORE NONSENSE. PUTTING BENEFITS IN A SEPARATE LINE ITEMS MAKES THEM EASIER TO SEE, NOT HARDER. CONSOLIDATING BENEFITS IN A “COMPENSATION” LINE ITEM MAKES THEM HARDER TO SEE, NOT EASIER.
House Budget Line Consolidations for Transparency
Additionally, the employee salary and benefit appropriations for both the House Republicans and the House Democrats were combined into a new appropriation entitled “Caucus Operations.”
ONCE AGAIN, THIS MAKES IT HARDER TO SEE HOW MUCH IS SPENT ON SALARIES AND BENEFITS, NOT EASIER.
In an effort to consolidate services and save overhead dollars, the four separate caucus information technology appropriations were reduced and transferred under the administration of the Legislative Data Processing Center.
MORE NONSENSE. THE HOUSE REPUBLICAN PRINTOUT (ALSO ATTACHED) SHOWS THAT THE “CONSOLIDATION” OF LINE ITEMS (LINES 579, 612, AND 613 ON PAGE 14 OF THE SPREADSHEET) INCREASED THE BUDGET FOR THE LEGISLATIVE DATA PROCESSING CENTER (LINE 634 ON PAGE 15) FROM $13,796,000 TO $14,578,000, AN INCREASE OF 5.7%. WHEN YOU REMOVE FROM 2010-11 THE NON-RECURRING COSTS OF RE-APPORTIONMENT, ($800,000), THE INCREASE IS EVEN GREATER – 12.2%. THUS, THEY FALSELY CLAIM TO SAVE MONEY BY CONSOLIDATING WHILE IN TRUTH THEY INCREASE SPENDING SUBSTANTIALLY.
The House Republican and Democrat Committees on Appropriations’ funds were reduced by $2 million each, along with a $4.5 million reduction to each of the respective Special Leadership Accounts. Further reductions were made to the Legislative Printing and Expenses appropriation, and Incidental Expenses.
THESE CUTS SHOW ON THE HOUSE REPUBLICAN SPREADSHEET, WHICH MAKES IT EVEN HARDER TO UNDERSTAND WHY THE HOUSE BUDGET INCREASED SO MUCH. THE REDUCED LEVEL OF DETAIL AVAILABLE CONTRIBUTES TO THE DIFFICULTY IN UNDERSTANDING THIS BUDGET.
To move forward in presenting a more transparent and accurate appropriation to each of these funds, dollars were shifted internally in an effort to represent the true needs of these various lines in order to lessen the need to transfer funds from one line to another through the year; it is what some call making ‘whole’ those funds that were previously inadequate.
THIS TRANSFER IS NOT DOCUMENTED IN THE HOUSE REPUBLICAN PRINTOUT. THERE IS NO WAY TO VERIFY THIS ON THE PUBLIC RECORD. THE EFFECT IS EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT THEY CLAIM. ALLOWING TRANSFERS BETWEEN COSTS WITHOUT DOCUMENTING THEM IN LINE ITEMS DISGUISES FROM PUBLIC VIEW HOW MUCH THEY ARE SPENDING ON EACH KIND OF COST.
For instance, a more equitable redistribution of funds was included in the Caucus Operations appropriations to adequately account for House Republicans’ increase in members and staff as a result of our successes. We have 15 additional Republican House members in 2011-12 than in 2010-11. As a result of that increase, our costs have increased.
THIS CONTRADICTS REPORTED CLAIMS THAT HOUSE REPUBLICANS CUT THEIR STAFF BY 15% IN RECENT YEARS. NOTICE THAT THEY DID NOT PROVIDE THE ACTUAL AMOUNT OF THE COST INCREASE FOR HOUSE REPUBLICAN MEMBERS, NOR THE NUMBER OF ADDITIONAL STAFF ON THEIR PAYROLL.
Lapsing Reserve Funds
Finally, each caucus lapsed $12.5 million of legislative reserves and spent it in Education under Accountability Block Grants/Education in 2010-11.
THIS IS NOT DOCUMENTED ON THE PUBLIC RECORD. THE REPORT BY THE LEGISLATIVE AUDIT ADVISORY COMMITTEE IN DECEMBER SHOULD TELL US HOW MUCH OF THE SURPLUS REALLY WAS GIVEN TO THE TREASURY.
The Caucus spent down $18.5 million from our budgetary reserves (often referred by some as a “surplus”), leaving us with a 4-5 months “surplus”/reserve which many economists consider a rational, prudent and good budgetary practice.
IN OTHER WORDS, THEY COULDN’T LIVE WITHIN THEIR MEANS, SO THEY TOOK EXTRA TAXPAYER MONEY (MONEY TAKEN IN PREVIOUS YEARS AND NOT SPENT, I.E. A SURPLUS) TO GET THEM THROUGH THE YEAR.
THIS IS TOTAL GARBAGE. I’D LOVE TO KNOW WHICH ECONOMISTS BELIEVE A GOVERNMENT AGENCY SHOULD HAVE A SURPLUS – IT IS A SURPLUS – OF 4 TO 5 MONTHS, OR 41.7%. BY LAW, SCHOOL DISTRICTS ARE PROHIBITED FROM HAVING RESERVES OF MORE THAN 8%. THE LEGISLATUR DETERMINED THIS NUMBER BY CONSULTING ECONOMISTS, APPARENTLY DIFFERENT ECONOMISTS FROM THOSE CONSULTED FOR THE LEGISLATURE’S OWN BUDGET. IF SCHOOL DISTRICTS HELD A 4-5 MONTH SURPLUS, LAWMAKERS WOULD BE SQUEALING LIKE STUCK PIGS. THE HYPOCRISY IS EVIDENT.
The fact is, without the Legislature maintaining some reserve funds, the governor could veto budgets well into summer and essentially shut down the House and Senate as a means to gain leverage to support his budget agenda. (The previous governor’s agenda always included new or increased taxes.) It should be noted, Gov. Casey actually vetoed (zeroed out) the Legislature’s funding for his own political policies, and Gov. Rendell vetoed education funding in 2003 for the same reason. Two years ago, when Gov. Rendell signed the “Bridge Budget,” he ensured his personal office was funded, yet vetoed the Legislature’s funds.
MORE NONSENSE. FOR THE LEGISLATURE TO HAVE FUNDING WHEN NEITHER THE EXECUTIVE NOR JUDICIARY HAS FUNDING DOES NOT CREATE A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD IN BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS. THE LEGISLATURE HAS FIVE MONTHS TO PASS A BUDGET AFTER THE GOVERNOR GIVES HIS PROPOSAL. IF THEY CAN’T GET THAT JOB DONE, THEY DON’T DESERVE TO BE PAID, AS NEARLY EVERY TAXPAYER AGREES. PLUS, THE LEGISLATURE CAN ALWAYS OVERRIDE A GOVERNOR’S VETO AND RESTORE FUNDING. AND OF COURSE RENDELL VETOED THE LEGISLATURE’S FUNDING IN THE ‘BRIDGE BUDGET.’ THE LEGISLATURE ALREADY HAD A $200 MILLION SURPLUS AND DIDN’T NEED ANY MORE MONEY IN THE ‘BRIDGE BUDGET.’
House Republican Caucus Austerity
As to our own caucus, House Republicans have been guided by the Republican principles of controlled spending and less government. The leaders, with member support, have strived to put those principles into action. Our caucus fully understands that virtually every budget dollar comes from taxpayers’ wallets.
NOT TRUE, FOR ALL OF THE REASONS DOCUMENTED ABOVE.
Our caucus put those Republican principles to work on our own operations and have taken real steps to cut our own costs, in recent years reducing both our reserves and our appropriations. Even prior to the state’s economic downturn House Republicans took steps to reduce costs and streamline operations, which allowed us to return substantial funds to the state’s General Fund Budget.
AT THE TIME, REPUBLICANS WERE IN THE MINORITY, WHICH MEANT THAT THEIR COSTS WERE NOT AS GREAT. THIS CONTRADICTS WHAT IS SAID ABOVE ABOUT INCREASING STAFF BECAUSE REPUBLICANS GAINED THE MAJORITY.
The cost reductions include:
- Cutting or eliminating external contracts. THE BONUS SCANDAL HELPED WITH THIS. JUST ASK FORMER SPEAKER PERZEL.
- Better use of technology (phone system, tele-town halls, websites, data processing). HAS THIS REALLY REDUCED COSTS OR ADDED COSTS? WE DON’T KNOW. TELE-TOWN HALLS, FOR EXAMPLE, ARE NOT COST-FREE. DID THEY REALLY REPLACE FACE-TO-FACE TOWN HALL MEETINGS, OR ADD TO THEM?
- Streamlining various internal and external procedures (bulk-mail, print shop requests).
- Instituting a three-year wage freeze on House employees (now lifted). AT THE SAME TIME THEY WANT TO FREEZE EVERYONE ELSE, INCLUDING OTHERS WHO HAVE GONE EVEN LONGER WITHOUT A RAISE AND WHO HAVE BEEN CONTRIBUTING FAR MORE TO THEIR HEALTH INSURANCE FOR DECADES.
- Instituting a general hiring freeze for three years, only replacing essential positions (obviously lifted when majority increased to 112; employee compliment is now stable at approximately 835). THEY COULD SIMPLY HAVE USED THEIR SURPLUS TO COVER THESE ADDITIONAL COSTS OF BEING IN THE MAJORITY INSTEAD OF TAKING MORE NEW MONEY FROM TAXPAYERS.
- Halting the paid summer internship program.
- Setting strict limits on out-of-state travel.
I’D LOVE TO SEE THESE CLAIMS DOCUMENTED. UNFORTUNATELY, THEY NEVER DOCUMENT THEM. IF ALL OF THIS IS TRUE, WHY DID THEIR BUDGET INCREASE THIS YEAR? AND WHY AREN’T THEY BEING HONEST ABOUT THAT?
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