It's time for the third installment of waste in the legislature, brought to you by the 28th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury.

Money-saving suggestion #3: crack down on the cost of taxpayer-funded political caucuses.

The caucuses are four separate political teams that essentially run the legislature in Harrisburg -- House and Senate Democrats, House and Senate Republicans. Each has its own leaders, its own taxpayer-paid staffs, its own Web site, its own office equipment.

Partisanship requires some separation of offices, but in Harrisburg the practice is out of control. The four leadership teams have amassed a slush fund of taxpayer money totaling, at times, more than $200 million as their own private kitties. They've resisted a detailed accounting of this money, and have refused to give back surpluses.
It's not clear how much the caucus system costs taxpayers annually. But the duplication and waste can be seen in the House print shops, two identical operations run separately by the Democratic and Republican caucuses.
The basic purpose of a legislative print shop is nonpartisan: printing stationary, letterheads, brochures that go to constituents in mass mailings. But Republicans and Democrats have had separate print shops since around 1980. In 2009, the House Republicans' print shop alone cost taxpayers more than $3.2 million. The grand jury noted a kind of technological arms race between the two caucuses -- if Democrats purchased a new state-of-the-art, $1 million digital press, it wasn't long before the Republicans would purchase the same machine.
"There is nothing partisan about this work that would require more than one print shop to serve the entire House of Representativse," the report said.
The Senate somehow manages to make due with one print shop for both caucuses.