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Keyser Soze

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    Keyser Soze reacted to mr.d in Bill Would Force Pa. To Post Online How Lawmakers Spend Millions In Tax Dollars Each Year   
    How One Pennsylvania Lawmaker Billed Taxpayers $1.8 Million in Expenses
    June 22, 2021 1:00 am· Author: Staff, Spotlight PA   HARRISBURG, Pa. — The legislature was on break. Policymaking in the Capitol had ground to a halt. But State Rep. Chris Sainato was about to cash in — again.
      (Byline: Angela Couloumbis of Spotlight PA and Brad Bumsted, Sam Janesch, and Mike Wereschagin of The Caucus. Photo caption: “I can’t believe that,” Rep. Chris Sainato said in a recent interview when told of his expenses. “I don’t know where you are getting $1.8 million.” Photo credit: Tom Cherry/Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.)
    It was early August 2019, and the Pennsylvania lawmaker from Lawrence County was off to Nashville to meet with other legislators from across the country. Later that month, his travels took him to Harrisburg, then Coatesville, Lewistown, State College, Erie, back to Harrisburg, and around a smattering of towns near Pittsburgh.
    Sainato’s tab for his travels — paid for by taxpayers — included more than $1,950 in mileage, parking, and other transportation costs, and just shy of $3,000 in a special perk called per diems, which are flat-rate payments legislators can claim without receipts whenever they travel more than 50 miles outside their districts.
     
    The Western Pennsylvania Democrat, who prides himself on never missing a day of work, says those expenses are just part of doing the people’s business.
    Turns out, that business can also be incredibly lucrative.
    From when he was elected to the House in late 1994 to mid-January of this year, Sainato spent or has been reimbursed personally for more than $1.8 million in mileage, meals, lodging, travel, and office-related costs — including nearly $640,000 in per diems — all charged to taxpayers, according to an analysis of expense records by The Caucus and Spotlight PA as part of their ongoing investigation, The Hidden Tab.
    Adjusted for inflation, the total amounts to more than $2.2 million.
    During that same time, Sainato and other lawmakers — who make up the largest full-time legislature in the nation — have received near-annual cost-of-living increases, and are today among the best paid in the U.S. In 2020, Sainato was paid a salary of $90,335, plus $21,951 in expense reimbursements and $30,746 in per diems, most of which he collected during the pandemic, with the state’s economy at a standstill and millions out of work.
    “I can’t believe that,” Sainato said in a recent interview when told of his expenses. “I don’t know where you are getting $1.8 million.” Sainato’s party has been in the minority for almost his entire tenure in the legislature, and he has been the primary sponsor on only two bills that have become law, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau of Pennsylvania.
    In many categories of spending examined by the news organizations, Sainato’s expenses eclipsed those of most of his colleagues, not because he spent extravagantly on office furniture, staff salaries, or gifts for constituents — but because of his uniquely on-the-go style of legislating.
    In an interview, Sainato, 62, attributed his expenses in large part to never having missed a day of work. “A perfect record, inspired by you,” he wrote in a newsletter to constituents last fall.
      “This is all I do. I have not missed a day,” said Sainato, noting that he is a bachelor and among the longest-serving legislators in the chamber. “This is the only job I have. … Every time I am supposed to be there, I go.”
    Even during the pandemic, when many of his House colleagues took advantage of new rules allowing remote voting for the first time, he was there every session day — and collecting his per diem. Sainato said it was his duty to show up.
    His expenses are part of the hidden costs charged to taxpayers to support Pennsylvania’s legislature. Each year, lawmakers are collectively paid millions of dollars just to drive to work, stay at work, eat at work, then drive home from work — benefits that most of their constituents do not enjoy. Other perks come in the form of dinners paid for by lobbyists and industry groups, gifts with no monetary limit (as long as they are reported), and access to campaign accounts that can be used for nearly any expense, such as meals, travel, and even shoes.
    The expenses are spread across an array of legislative accounts that are largely shielded from the public. The Caucus and Spotlight PA, as part of a yearlong investigation into legislative spending, acquired and analyzed nearly 400,000 legislative expenses from 2017 to 2020. Sainato was near or at the top of the list for per diems for meals and lodging, and reimbursements for mileage and other transportation costs.
    In response to the reporting, top GOP leaders in both the House and the Senate have said they are working on a plan to make most lawmaker expenses available on a publicly accessible website. One senator, Democrat Lindsey Williams of Allegheny County, said she will be introducing a bipartisan bill to require expense transparency.
    As part of their ongoing investigation, the news organizations requested all of Sainato’s expenses dating back to his first day in office to mid-January 2021. Those records revealed a fairly consistent spending pattern over 2½ decades. Accounting for inflation, he has spent an average of about $86,000 in tax dollars per year since 1995.
    Beyond regular office costs like district office rent and supplies, the expenses show Sainato over the years traveled to nearly two dozen out-of-state conferences and spent weeks out of every year visiting dozens of Pennsylvania towns for hearings, tours, ceremonies, and other events.

    “That’s absolutely morally wrong and people know that,” said former Rep. Katie True, a Republican from Lancaster County who during her time as a state legislator eschewed many of the perks of the job. “The whole system has to fundamentally change.”
    Sainato, the records show, received almost $162,000 in mileage and more than $175,000 in other transportation costs, including gas, parking, and tolls.
    For all his driving around Pennsylvania, Sainato originally used a state car at a cost of about $4,800 per year for the lease, $3,600 per year for gas and oil, and an additional $350 per year for maintenance. Since he got rid of that vehicle in 2012, he’s collected an average of about $16,700 per year for mileage.
    Even at the height of the recession in the late 2000s, when legislators were slashing billions of dollars from the budget, Sainato did not scale back his spending. During the 19-month period between December 2007 and June 2009, the Democrat claimed $120,226 in overall expenses. Of that money, $49,448 went to Sainato in the form of per-diem reimbursements.
    Per-diem rates vary depending on the time of year and whether lawmakers are traveling for a voting or nonvoting session. Pennsylvania rates are among the more generous in the country, according to an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
    That is in part because legislators in the state are allowed to claim such payments, albeit smaller in dollar amount, not just when they come to the Capitol to vote, but for any business or travel related to their jobs on so-called non-session days. And the per-diem clock starts running the moment they leave their homes.
    Because Sainato’s Western Pennsylvania district is among the farthest from the Capitol — about 262 miles — he has said he often has to leave for Harrisburg the day before a voting session and return the day after, allowing him to collect more days’ worth of per diems.
    Records show that is only half the story.
    Sainato also received $372,140 worth of “non-session” per diems as part of 2,621 claims made over 25 years — an average of about 105 traveling days every year. That is roughly twice the average number of voting days in the Capitol in any given year.
    Many of his non-session per diems were for legislative hearings and other events around the state, but several were for tours on or near the Capitol grounds on days the legislature was on break.
    On May 29, 2012, for instance, when lawmakers had recessed for a week between voting days, he collected a $163 non-session per diem for touring the state’s Medal of Honor Memorial, less than a minute’s walk from the Capitol. It was a tour he had taken less than a year earlier, in July 2011, according to expense records.
    Crisscrossing the state to attend Democratic policy committee meetings was another reason Sainato’s non-session per diems were so high. Both Republicans and Democrats in each chamber run such committees, which have no voting power but instead meet to discuss issues or policies that are important to their political party.
    Records show he attended at least 634 policy committee hearings — though the vague nature of the records makes it impossible to nail down the exact number — for which he received $107,338 since he became a legislator.
    He also collected “non-session” per diems when he traveled out of state for conferences.
    In 2002, for instance, Sainato took his first out-of-town trip to New Orleans for a meeting of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States. At the time, casino gambling was not yet legal in Pennsylvania.
    For his four-day stay, he submitted $567 in non-session per diems. Expense records do not explain what that money went to cover — nor does his caucus require an explanation.
    Since then, he has attended 22 conferences outside of Pennsylvania, including in South Beach, Fla.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Seattle; and San Francisco and Napa, Calif., collecting $19,200 in non-session per diems, expense records show. That does not include registration and other transportation fees related to the trips.
     
    Over the last two decades, good-government advocates, along with a handful of lawmakers, have been critical of everything from lawmakers’ high salaries to the other perks of the job. Per diems, in particular, have been a sore point, with many pushing to abandon them in favor of a system of reimbursing for actual expenses.
    But year after year, efforts have stalled due to inaction and the fact that any changes are left up to lawmakers — the exact same people benefiting from the perks.
    While more transparency is part of the solution, True, the former GOP lawmaker, said basic changes are needed to lawmakers’ expense accounts.
    “A blanket per diem? How do you check on that?”
    Sainato disagrees.
    When asked whether documenting actual expenses would be preferable, he said it would be a hindrance to getting things done “for people like me who are very busy.”
  2. AGREE
    Keyser Soze got a reaction from Becky Ball Nadji in Restaurant   
    Corner Cafe
  3. LIKE
    Keyser Soze reacted to lavender in DuBois   
    I can tell you that I wouldn't do. Plant a female ginkgo. The fruit is abundant, sloppy and has a four odor. Plant an ornamental pear under any circumstances. They sucker. Those ones on the Pershing lot would form a forest if permitted. I think they put up suckers from every part of their root system. Cutting them just encourages them to grow faster. Awful trees! 
  4. AGREE
    Keyser Soze reacted to JimmyPete in DuBois   
    Well,  in my 20 years in landscaping, you can't really put trees in where side walks are..... the roots will just cause the same issues over time.. 
  5. LIKE
    Keyser Soze got a reaction from BigT in Sandy no on consolidation   
    Not yet. The petition has to be created so that it has the same info for both DuBois and Sandy. The form of government has to be determine too. 
    I will let you know when it is ready.
  6. AGREE
    Keyser Soze got a reaction from JimmyPete in Sandy no on consolidation   
    The Supervisors (and DuBois)(tax dollars) paid for the Consolidation study.
    It will cost very little to get it placed on the ballot using the present form of government. Might as well get some return on the 60 thousand dollars spent so far.
    The  reason the Supervisors gave to  cancelled the process does not make a bit of sense.
     
  7. LIKE
    Keyser Soze reacted to Jeff in Sandy no on consolidation   
    If and when it becomes available they can have it here at my shop to have people to stop and sign it if that is allowed.
  8. LIKE
    Keyser Soze got a reaction from Jeff in Sandy no on consolidation   
    I am going to do all I can to rectify the no votes of the Supervisors.
    Only about 350 signatures are needed to get Consolidation on the ballot.
    Let the voters decide!!!!
     
  9. LIKE
    Keyser Soze got a reaction from jeeper401 in Sandy no on consolidation   
    The Supervisors (and DuBois)(tax dollars) paid for the Consolidation study.
    It will cost very little to get it placed on the ballot using the present form of government. Might as well get some return on the 60 thousand dollars spent so far.
    The  reason the Supervisors gave to  cancelled the process does not make a bit of sense.
     
  10. AGREE
    Keyser Soze reacted to DuB814 in Sandy no on consolidation   
    I agree with you 100%. Their reasoning made absolutely no sense. Time to take back some of the power and show them the citizens are in control of our future and best interests. 
  11. AGREE
    Keyser Soze reacted to lavender in Sandy no on consolidation   
    I can't think that anyone would not think that State College is thriving. They are building housing everywhere. We bought a place there and it wasn't outrageously expensive. Certainly, if you want a mansion it is going to be pricier than similar housing would be here. There are lots of professional level jobs and just remember that all of those intellectual types who don't know one end of a screwdriver from another need lots of somebodies to service their cars and fix their plumbing. Curiously, people are retiring to State College because of all of the available activities and they are bringing retirement income into the community.  We should be so lucky as to emulate State College.
    State College has the university that brings people to the area. DuBois needs a similar draw. With more people working from home, if DuBois/Sandy gets their ducks in a row, as an entity they might just draw some of those people to the area. We could have an influx of people with well paid jobs bringing money into the area and using services provided by the rest of the residents. There has to be something here to draw them besides the ability to raise chickens in the backyard. 
  12. AGREE
    Keyser Soze reacted to DuB814 in Sandy no on consolidation   
    I know a lot of people who are willing to sign that petition. Township residents that is.
  13. THANK YOU
    Keyser Soze got a reaction from DuB814 in Sandy no on consolidation   
    I am going to do all I can to rectify the no votes of the Supervisors.
    Only about 350 signatures are needed to get Consolidation on the ballot.
    Let the voters decide!!!!
     
  14. AGREE
    Keyser Soze got a reaction from buschpounder in Sandy no on consolidation   
    I am going to do all I can to rectify the no votes of the Supervisors.
    Only about 350 signatures are needed to get Consolidation on the ballot.
    Let the voters decide!!!!
     
  15. THANK YOU
    Keyser Soze got a reaction from pennstater in Sandy no on consolidation   
    I am going to do all I can to rectify the no votes of the Supervisors.
    Only about 350 signatures are needed to get Consolidation on the ballot.
    Let the voters decide!!!!
     
  16. AGREE
    Keyser Soze got a reaction from BigT in Sandy no on consolidation   
    I am going to do all I can to rectify the no votes of the Supervisors.
    Only about 350 signatures are needed to get Consolidation on the ballot.
    Let the voters decide!!!!
     
  17. AGREE
    Keyser Soze got a reaction from Mahatma Kane Jeeves in Sandy no on consolidation   
    I am going to do all I can to rectify the no votes of the Supervisors.
    Only about 350 signatures are needed to get Consolidation on the ballot.
    Let the voters decide!!!!
     
  18. AGREE
    Keyser Soze reacted to pennstater in Sandy no on consolidation   
    Wrong. The pop is shrinking. In 2010 there were 7794 people in dubois.  The estimate for 2019 is 7300.   It’s readily available.  
     
    You literally spouted no facts. More lies and conjecture.  No facts.  None.  Just living in fear and in the bitter past. Whatever.  Some just want to keep everyone held back. Unfortunately everyone has to suffer for those some.  Sad. Very sad.  
  19. LIKE
    Keyser Soze got a reaction from DuB814 in Sandy no on consolidation   

    TIMELINE   A bit of history...

    In the late 1960s, the state of Pennsylvania advocated regional cooperation among municipalities as a way to reduce costs. Already, local governments cooperated on parks operation through the State College Parks and Recreation Department and on zoning through the Regional Planning Commission. However, when the idea was proposed for a regional council of governments, township citizens worried that they would lose governmental control to the Borough of State College and that taxes would rise.

    Despite those fears, the Centre Region Council of Governments (COG) was formed in December 1969, and today it includes State College Borough and College, Ferguson, Halfmoon, Harris, and Patton townships. When COG celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1989, Mayor Arnold Addison noted, “This most effective, cooperative government did not begin as a love feast among or between the municipal representatives. ... Here was an effort which involved reducing, if not eliminating, the suspicions that had been fed and nurtured between the borough and the townships over the period of many years.”

    Today the Centre Region Council of Governments is arguably the most successful COG in the state of Pennsylvania and a model to the nation through its steadfast work by the areas elected officials and COG staff, and the shared commitment to intergovernmental cooperation that exists for the residents who live, work and play in the Centre Region.     https://www.crcog.net/index.asp?SEC=77B4F966-2CA5-4FC6-A258-081CA75950BD
  20. THANK YOU
    Keyser Soze got a reaction from MIM307 in Sandy no on consolidation   
    State College Area  just spent 200 million dollars on their schools the last 5 years so they are not hurting for money.
    https://www.scasd.org/Domain/1891
    https://www.scasd.org/elementaryplan
  21. AGREE
    Keyser Soze got a reaction from MIM307 in Sandy no on consolidation   
    Your analysis does not make one bit of sense.
    The Corning Asahi plant closed because it made TV picture tubes.
    The State College area has nothing to do with Sandy/DuBois Consolidation
  22. AGREE
    Keyser Soze reacted to BillyC in Sandy no on consolidation   
    Doc Rice has had nothing but problems and issues with Sandy Twp for many years now. He could of quit fighting them knuckleheads a long time ago but give him credit for being a patient person. He's had very little issues with the city on redoing the buildings downtown.
  23. LIKE
    Keyser Soze reacted to pennstater in Sandy no on consolidation   
    ??? You are the one making false statements and claiming things you don’t know; as if you can see in the future (which is a lie btw)  Not me. 
    My statement has always been the same.  We must move forward.  As one. I don’t hold onto grudges or bickering from 100 years ago!  Let it go.  Move forward and let’s act like a single community that we should be.  
  24. AGREE
    Keyser Soze reacted to lavender in Sandy no on consolidation   
    The whole area needs to change. The only way I see that happening to to encourage the influx of new people who are going to change the status quo. That is probably going to take consolidation.  If an area doesn't grow it stagnates and dies and your children and grandchildren move across the country to find work. I don't know how many cases I've heard of recently where doctors, in particular, were hired by Penn Highlands only to have their families take one look at the area and refuse to move. The most peaceful place is a cemetery.  I guess we can have that if we are willing to stop evolving. 
  25. AGREE
    Keyser Soze reacted to DuB814 in Sandy no on consolidation   
    Again, you have got to be kidding me! Everything you just stated are fact less statements that are solely opinion based. One Google search and you can find a ton of information on the Sandy TWP water and sewage lines and how they are in terrible shape. As far as them paying the city a huge amount, again, fact less statements. The TWP charges the I&I surcharge to offset the costs of maintaining and repairing the water and sewage lines owned by them. It is the TWP who charges a ridiculous amount to THIER customers. I could be wrong on this too, but for the longest time, if not the current time, the TWP customers paid less than the city customers for water. Keyser knows more about this than I do. I am sure he can post the numbers!
    This is the problem, people voting who are uneducated about what they are voting for or on. AS IT HAS BEEN STATED MANY TIMES BEFORE, YOU WILL KEEP YOU LAND AND HOMES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LET ME REPEAT THAT, YOU WILL KEEP YOUR LAND AND HOMES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
    As far as the "majority has already spoken," the last time I checked and did math, 33% of people stating they don't want consolidation compared to 49% who said the currently do for TWP residents is not a majority. As far as undecided voters, I would like to think that it would not be to hard to get another 2% of the undecided voters to vote yes to give a certain majority. 
    In the end though, it does not matter that facts can be posted to back up claims because you will still continue to think someone is coming for your land. 
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