Sens. Wagner and Argall: More accountability needed for state grants

HARRISBURG – Citing bonuses awarded to political staffers who organized a political convention that was subsidized in part by state tax dollars, Senators Scott Wagner (R-York) and David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) unveiled legislation they say will provide more accountability for state grants.

A report by Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale found the state awarded a $10 million grant to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to host its convention in Philadelphia in 2016. Staffers and interns were awarded with over $1 million in bonuses following the convention.

“The bottom line is this: Taxpayers should not be subsidizing bonuses to political operatives regardless of political party,” Wagner said. “I am very concerned that the state has no way to recoup those tax dollars that were clearly not needed. Fortunately we have a plan to fix that moving forward.”

Senate Bill 1010 puts more protections in place for tax dollar-funded grants issued to non-governmental entities. The legislation would require that the state be the payer of last resort for any project and would require grant recipients to return any unspent grant funding.

Wagner and Argall point to one provision in their bill that would have required the DNC Convention Committee to repay the state at least $2.1 million. Under their proposal, any entity that obtains funding from another source after the grant is awarded would be required to reimburse the state up to the amount awarded in the grant. According to the Auditor General’s report, the DNC sat on a $2.1 million surplus of privately raised funds at the conclusion of the event over the summer of 2016.

The report also faulted poor agreement wording in the state grant that left taxpayers on the hook.

“It is unfortunate we need to legislate the matter, but without proper management of state agencies, we need to fix these issues through commonsense reforms,” Argall said. “Senator Wagner and I believe this will bring much-needed accountability to the way the state awards grants in the future.”