The Associated Press combed through more than 6,000 pages of line items to get a clearer picture of how the Pennsylvania General Assembly spent taxpayer money on its own operations during the fiscal year that ended June 30. Highlights of the findings:
— TOTAL SPENDING: The 253-member Legislature spends about $360 million annually, a figure that is up from $318 million a year ago.
— BIG TICKET ITEM: Payroll and benefits are by far the largest spending category, about $299 million.
— SOME OF WHAT THEY BOUGHT: A teach-yourself-Spanish program, a zoo rental, fastnachts, personalized tablecloths, muffins, music licensing, a portable heater, exterminating, commercial storage, vehicle rentals, a mini-fridge, ice melt, toilet paper, flags, vehicle maintenance.
— FOOD, DRINK AND SNACKS: Lawmakers made more than a thousand purchases of food and drink, often for events back in the district and for groups visiting the Capitol. Lawmakers’ own meals when they are in Harrisburg are also subsidized.
— CUSTOM FRAMING: About half of state representatives ordered up government-paid framing last year, sometimes for pictures of themselves.
— SIGNS: Lawmakers spent more than $50,000 on signs over the year, from modest door markers to illuminated signs with their names in lights.
— SHREDDING: Some state representatives and senators organize shredding events for people to securely dispose of paperwork. The events, sometimes advertised as free, cost taxpayers at least $44,000 last year. They also purchased shredders for use in their own offices.
— NOTARY SERVICES: The spending documents included hundreds of invoices to pay the cost of maintaining notaries public in legislative offices, a convenience that can be helpful in performing constituent service. Taxpayers paid for notaries’ fees, license renewals, bond costs, exam fees, commissions, notary books, classes, stamps and mileage to take the notary test.
— OTHER COSTS: The Legislature spent $11 million on leases and millions more on printing, mailing and insurance.