Here's the third installment of waste in the legislature, brought to you by the 28th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury.
The cost of 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 website, 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. 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 print shop is nonpartisan: printing stationery, letterheads, and brochures that go to constituents in mass mailings. But Republicans and Democrats have had separate print shops since about 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.
The report found no legitimate need to have separate and costly print shops.