State legislative leaders contend that a law to require lawmakers to post their expenses isn’t necessary because they plan to require the same thing as a matter of policy. In other words, “trust us.”

If those same leaders truly were committed to transparency, though, taxpayers already would be able to find comprehensive disclosures on the legislative leaders’ own websites.

But when the news organizations Spotlight PA and The Caucus set out to document lawmakers’ expenses, they ran into a wall of obfuscation rather than disclosure.

Senate Pro Tempore Jake Corman’s website, the investigation found, included a page titled “It’s Your Money,” which included only his salary and district office rents and had not been updated for six years.

Journalists did uncover millions of dollars of lawmakers unreported or partially reported expenses. With the help of data experts from Temple University, the journalists compiled a database showing that some lawmakers had not reported or only partially reported expenses ranging from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.

There is no reason to believe that lawmakers will reveal how they spend the public’s money on themselves on the basis of in-house policy.

Two state senators – Democrat Lindsey Williams of Allegheny County and Republican Kristin Phillips-Hill of York County – plan to introduce a bill requiring comprehensive reporting of all legislative expenses as a matter of law. The chief clerks of the House and Senate would be required to post that spending data online as the money is spent. That data would include all expense spending from all accounts, including vehicle usage, lodging, travel, food, district office rents, and on and on.

All local legislators should support it, especially newly minted state Sen. Marty Flynn of Lackawanna County, who has a long record as a state representative of mishandling routine financial disclosures for his campaigns and accepting undocumented expense payments – which he claims to have used for charitable contributions rather than for the intended purpose of expense reimbursements.

Taxpayers should not have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out how elected officials use their money. This bill is a no-brainer.

Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice

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