The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 3, 2013

Culver, Keller support online office expense reports

By John Finnerty
CNHI Harrisburg Bureau

— The state spent almost $3 million on leases for district offices for the 203 members of the House of Representatives in 2012, documents obtained under the Right to Know law reveal.

Those costs don’t include the amount paid to operate the offices, and the public has no easy means of monitoring the spending habits of lawmakers and their staffs because there is no organized, government-sponsored effort to report the information.

A handful but growing number of lawmakers have taken matters into their own hands and begun posting office expenses on their office websites.

Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver, R-108 of Sunbury, said she started posting her expenses online to demonstrate her commitment to transparency.

Such efforts may not go far enough, said Rep. Fred Keller, R-85 of Kreamer, who noted that the state has launched an open government website that is intended to be a resource to help the public learn how tax dollars are being spent. Expenses of lawmakers are not included on the site, called Pennwatch.

“We ought to be leaders on this,” Keller said.

Allowing the public to have easy access to information about government spending provides for more immediate accountability, he said.