LAWRENCE COUNTY, Pa. (KDKA) – A local state legislator billed taxpayers $ 1.8 million in expenses during his many years in office.
But Pennsylvania Rep. Chris Sainato, a Democrat from Lawrence County, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano that it was all perfectly legitimate.
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Delano: Do you feel like you have deceived the taxpayers in any way?
Sainato: No way because I followed the rules and guidelines established by the House. During my 26 years, I have shown the people I represent that I am ready to work hard.
One of the oldest members of the State House, Sainato has represented the New Castle area since 1994.
During these 26 years, he has accumulated a lot of expenses in the public service. He was surprised when Featured sound system and the caucus counted the numbers until they realized they added office rental expenses.
They discovered that Sainato had accrued $ 1.8 million in expenses, including nearly $ 650,000 in per diems, $ 175,000 in transportation costs and $ 162,000 in mileage reimbursements.
Delano: Does that sound fair to you?
Sainato: This is because you include our office rent and our office expenses. When you add 26 years of spending, that’s probably correct.
Delano: Do you get rich by being a representative of the state?
Sainato: No, I don’t think I’m getting rich. But when you say $ 1.8 million, it’s not really my money. These are expenses and it has been over 26 years.
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Sainato defends his expenses, noting the distance he travels – 260 miles each way – to Harrisburg and the cost of renting an office at $ 1,400 a month.
“It includes my rent. It includes the expense of having a district office, and I think that’s vital, ”he said. “I have one of the busiest offices in the state. It’s a good location and we deal with a lot of constituents through the office. So when you add 26 years to that, the numbers are going to be high. “
In addition to their annual salary of $ 90,000, state lawmakers allow themselves a lump sum per diem, ranging from $ 178 to $ 200, to cover meals and lodging while in Harrisburg or traveling on legislative business. .
Sainato said his per diems usually cover his costs and are high because he has a perfect attendance record.
“I never missed a single day during the pandemic. I was in Harrisburg. We were on the floor. Some members were able to vote remotely. Personally, I have never voted remotely. I think it was important that we were there in person, ”says Sainato.
Critics have long said that vouchers for actual expenses should be submitted and reimbursed instead of flat-rate per diems.
Delano: Do you think this is a system that needs to be changed?
Sainato: The system has been in place since I’ve been there. It’s been almost 27 years and the rates are set by the IRS.
“It usually equals or comes close to when you pay for your hotel, your food expenses and things like that,” the Lawrence County lawmaker noted. “Keeping track of all files, especially if you’re away a lot, is a lot of paperwork. So I just followed the system we have.
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This system has remained in place regardless of which party controls the state legislature.