Something from the inbox that I absolutely agree with:
Joe Hoeffel, a Democratic candidate for Governor, today urged the Pennsylvania Legislature to return more than $200 million to the Commonwealth after learning that the General Assembly ended the fiscal year with the huge surplus.
Pennsylvania State Representative Josh Shapiro and The Legislative Audit Advisory Commission (LAAC) have reported that the Pennsylvania General Assembly ended the fiscal year with a $201.4 million legislative surplus. The report can be found here.
"I call upon our state legislators to return this money to the commonwealth of Pennsylvania," said Democrat Joe Hoeffel, candidate for governor in the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary. "This money should be returned so that we can use it for the benefit of the entire commonwealth. $200 million isn't 'chump change' -- this will go a long way towards making up anticipated shortfalls in next year's budget, and this will help us pass a responsible budget on time this year.
"I agree fully with Josh Shapiro that 'it's critical that the public has confidence in knowing how their tax dollars are being spent and that there is no waste in their state government.' Thanks to Rep. Shapiro and the LAAC we can now much more easily see improper allocations of our tax dollars.
"Now that we've seen how $200 million of our tax dollars have been improperly allocated towards legislative slush funds. It's time for our legislators to take immediate action to regain the public's confidence by returning this $200 million to the state budget.
"Just prior to Christmas, the independent financial audit of the General Assembly for fiscal year 2008-09 was released by the Legislative Audit Advisory Committee (LAAC), chaired by Shapiro. Having reviewed the audit, I am pleased to see how the General Assembly has taken great strides in implementing previous recommendations of the LAAC. The level of transparency and the detailed accounting of expenditures is a great improvement over previous years, giving the public much more information on how their tax dollars are spent.
"However, with this transparency the audit also makes clear that not all of this money is going to the right places. For months, this summer and fall, we witnessed the drawn out negotiations in the legislature over this year's budget; and we are already hearing about how next year's budget negotiations may be just as agonizing. Every news story tells us Pennsylvania has a budget shortfall, the economic recovery will take time, and we all have to tighten our belts and make difficult compromises. Yet the LAAC's report paints a different picture.
"While we watch the legislature and Governor Rendell cut critical funding for programs across the state including libraries, nursing homes, and Department of Environmental Protection; tap our commonwealth's Rainy Day Fund; and desperately seek new revenue sources such as table games at casinos, it turns out that over $200 million of our commonwealth's money has quietly found its way into legislative slush funds."