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Harrisburg waste, part II

Example #2 of waste in the legislature, courtesy of the 28th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury:

Put an end to the legislature's "friends and family" plan. One of the reasons for the bloated cost of the General Assembly is the party leaders' habit of engaging in partisan patronage hiring.

Meet Bernadette Runk, the former director of human resources for the House Republican Caucus. The grand jury called Runk "an excellent of the peril to the taxpayers posed by partisan staffing."

At the time of her testimony to the grand jury, Runk had 29 years of experience in her department. But she told the grand jury that the HRC did not have an organizational chart (it does). And she invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when the grand jury asked if she knew of any state employees in the Republican caucus who had used "comp time" to work on political campaigns.

When Runk retired on June 30, 2009, she was earning a taxpayer-funded salary of $112,840. But the office of House Republican Leader Sam Smith (R., Jefferson) immediately rehired Runk as a "consultant" at the same rate of pay. This time, however, she was required to work only three days per week.

Smith's office justified re-hiring Runk, saying her retirement had created an "emergency" in the human resources department. GOP leaders said Runk's absence would "severely impair service to the public."

The grand jury noted that "having no plan of succession should not qualify as an 'emergency.'"

Democrats have their own human-resources staff, too. Taxpayers get charged twice so that each party caucus can control its own hiring for legislative jobs that are simply supposed to serve the public in a nonpartisan manner.

Eliminating partisan hiring, wherever possible, would save taxpayers millions per year. Think of that, next time a legislator pontificates about how he or she is trying to cut the budget to save taxpayers money.