Audit: Legislature’s house costing more money to operate

Spending by the state General Assembly increased by about $8 million last year and the year-end surplus declined, according to an internal audit released recently.

The House spent $178 million and the Senate $96 million, with payroll and benefits the largest spending item, costing Pennsylvania residents $249 million.

Rightly or wrongly, Pennsylvania has a reputation for having a large, well-heeled Legislature. These numbers don’t help erase the reputation.

They also drop the surplus in the legislative account to $140 million, a decrease of about $43 million from the previous year. The surplus is a hedge against a budgetary standoff with the governor. Though that does not seem to be a problem with this governor, auditors say the surplus should not go much lower.

Look, this is hardly a key spending element amid all the state’s budgetary travails. But, if we are going to have lawmakers claiming to be austere and questioning state programs and spending policies, it would be helpful if they could point to their own budget as the proper way to go.

There may be particular, rational reasons for the spending increase, but the numbers are what they are.