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Luxury on the taxpayers' tab

August 09, 2005

On Saturday, The Herald-Mail's editorial page gave a "thumbs down" to the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency and 10 of the state lawmakers who serve on its board, for spending $135,637 for a three-day retreat for 70 people.

Apparently, that's only the latest trip to a luxury resort taken with taxpayer dollars.

On Sunday, The Harrisburg Patriot-News reported that 13 state agencies have spent $825,000 since 2001 to attend such retreats.

The Associated Press quoted some state officials as saying that when compared to the amounts of annual state budgets since 2001, those amounts are small.

Others - and we agree with them - say that the taxpayers have the right to expect that state officials be good stewards of the tax dollars they collect.

Common Cause Pennsylvania's Executive Director Barry Kauffman said that there are likely to be conference rooms at places such as Harrisburg Area Community College that would accommodate such conferences without costing nearly as much money.

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The Patriot-News quoted President Judge Joseph Del Sole as saying that when judicial conferences are held in cities, as opposed to the resorts, they lose attendees.

Del Sole went on to say that attracting nationally known speakers to educate judges is of benefit to the court, and, by extension, to the public.

We agree, but wonder why such conferences are voluntary, rather than mandatory.

We believe that if any state employees get to meet in luxury resorts, it should be those who are underpaid for what they do - correctional officers and police. That's a bill the public should gladly pay.

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