Isle lawmakers need to rein in expenses
The budget for legislative operations is up 42 percent from last year.
TAXPAYERS who have seen their household expenses rise as the price of everything from food to electricity goes up might understand that the cost for legislative functions at the state Capitol would similarly increase.
They might allow that lawmakers would need more cash even though a 7.9 percent budget boost from last year's allocation to this year's sounds excessive.
What is troubling is that legislators can't seem to track how they have spent their previous allowances, which makes one wonder if costs have really gone up or if lawmakers are spending carelessly.
Whatever the case, the Legislature is poised to approve itself a $38.8 million budget for the current session, a $11.5 million jump from 2006. Granted, about half of the increase, $5.3 million, will go to the legislative auditor's office, a valid expense since audits compel state programs' accountability. That still drops more than $6 million into lawmakers' pockets.
In the last five years, the House's expenses have gone up 55 percent and the Senate's 46 percent, the Star-Bulletin's Richard Borreca reports.
Where did the money go?
"It is difficult for us to determine," said Senate Vice President Donna Mercado Kim, who heads a new panel on legislative operations. "We can't figure it out."
As for the fresh infusion of cash, Kim said it will be spent on computer improvements, such as wiring House and Senate chambers and dedicated servers for the Ways and Means Committee, the Senate unit that largely directs state finances.
While these expenditures seem reasonable, the new laptops that Kim says all lawmakers "are going to want" don't. Neither do new furniture and an expanded travel budget. As for pay raises, another reason given for the budget increase, legislators should set those aside, at least until they can provide an accounting of past spending and until they have determined how much of the state's surplus will be returned to taxpayers.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
» The state Legislature's budget increased 7.9 percent between 2006 and 2007, going from $27.9 million to $30.1 million. A Page A3 article Wednesday incorrectly reported the increase at 42 percent. The error was repeated in an editorial that ran on Page A14 yesterday.
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