By Tim Potts
If the governor’s proposed budget is adopted, Pennsylvania’s commitment to enforcement over the past four years (under both Democratic and Republican governors) will be:
- Department of State (elections, campaign finance, and lobbying) – cut by 28.9%.
- State Ethics Commission (other forms of public corruption) – cut by 23.5%.
- Office of Open Records – cut by 6.1%.
By way of comparison, our House and Senate will spend 62% more on printing next year ($18,975,000) than the budgets of the three agencies combined ($11,713,000). The budget for restoration for the capitol ($1,720,000) will be greater than the budget for the State Ethics Commission ($1,680,000).
I hope you will follow the State Integrity Investigation with a project to create a template for a Public Integrity Budget.
This budget would include the cost of enforcement agencies, communication campaigns to raise public awareness about deficiencies in state laws and enforcement practices, and mandatory training for public officials in how to avoid criminal conduct.
The integrity budget for Pennsylvania is pathetically small, representing just 4/10,000th of one percent of the proposed state budget. But no one knows how large it should be to make the kind of difference in enforcement that is needed. With a template that calls for a certain amount per capita as a baseline budget, integrity advocates could have a real tool to pressure governors and legislators.
Also, it would be good to have some creative ideas for funding the Public Integrity Budget with something other than appropriations by the legislature. For example, fines imposed and pension funds surrendered as the result of criminal convictions of public officials are one potential source. Another is court fees, and a third is a Public Integrity Endowment, i.e. a lump sum set aside whose interest earnings (like a pension fund) would pay for the operations of enforcement agencies. Or all of the above.