Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Taking a long walk on a short -- err -- expensive pier. Go Lt. Gov Candidate Stilp

Source: Gene Stilp, Lt. Governor Reform Committee

Stilp to Protest Brightbill's Tens of Thousands of Dollars in Per Diems in
26.2-Mile Walk From the Senator's Home to His Capitol Office

Lieutenant Governor Candidate Says Brightbill Should Return Thousands in Wrongfully Pocketed Taxpayer Funds

On Wednesday, April 12 from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m., Democratic Lieutenant Governor candidate and anti-pay-raise activist Gene Stilp will take a break from the statewide campaign trail to embark on yet another trail. This time, Stilp will walk from Senator David "Chip" Brightbill's home in Mt. Gretna, Lebanon County to Brightbill's Capitol office. The distance: exactly 26.2 miles.

Stilp is staging the walk to demand that Brightbill return tens of thousands of dollars to Pennsylvania taxpayers taken in the form of per diem expenses, even though the Senate Majority Leader lives well within commuting distance of the Capitol.

"While the Pennsylvania House of representatives has a rule that no legislator can receive a per diem if the member lives within 50 miles of the Capitol, the Senate, where Senator Brightbill is the Majority Leader, allows the taking of a per diem no matter how close you live or if you actually use the money on expenses," Stilp explained. The Senate per diem rate is currently $143 per day. "Obviously, the rate was lower in the past, but as Majority Leader, Senator Brightbill makes the rules," Stilp said.

In recent years, Brightbill has collected as much as $8,000 to more than $10,000 per year in extra income from the per diems. "He does not stay in hotels in Harrisburg, he merely pockets the money," Stilp said.

Stilp is also asking Brightbill for a full accounting of his per diems while in office. "No one knows what the real amount is. It may well total more than $100,000 in extra income. Only an audit of Brightbill's per diems will tell," Stilp noted. Senator Brightbill is also holding up passage of Governor Rendell's Minimum Wage Bill in the Senate.

While Stilp is not a resident of Brightbill's district, and the Senator will likely point this out, the anti-pay-raise activist notes that taxpayers across the commonwealth pay for the per diems, not just Brightbill's constituents.

"These tens of thousands of dollars Brightbill owes the taxpayers are in addition to the tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions he just returned to gambling interests. Simply put, 'Chip's dip' into the taxpayers' pocketbook for per diems has got to stop," Stilp concluded.

Mr. Stilp is currently running against Catherine Baker Knoll in the Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor. The election is May 16.

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