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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Why Calendars Matter

The latest story of Capitol Calendars bought at taxpayer expenses is a Tribune-Review article on Catherine Baker Knoll (as president of the Senate) getting her share. Other recent stories appeared in the Patriot News, the Morning Call, and the Pottstown Mercury.

The most common defense of calendars is not "what a great public service" they are, but "they don't cost that much" or "what's the big deal" (see here for example). Here is why calendars matter:

1) These calendars serve no purpose other than self-promotion. When I get a free calendar or giveway from a business, it is clear they want to promote themselves or a product they are selling. Same thing with lawmakers. Calendars are no different than a campaign mailer, only paid for by taxpayers. They are indefensible as an expenditure of state government.

2) Calendars are just one example of the many excesses of lawmakers and government officials. More troubling than the cost is that no one - save one gadfly from Altoona - saw anything odd about taxpayer purchased calendards. But that is just the latest in a long line of revelations:

And after calendars, there will be more (best bet: stories about the cost of taxpayer-provided studios and video equipment for lawmakers to produce their own TV shows), until lawmakers turn over a new leaf and start eliminated excesses before the media and public express outrage.

3) Small costs add up. Sure a few hundred thousand is small potatoes in a $27 billion budget, but these things add up. In fact, I decided to look over the budget and find all the small ticket items and see what they add up to (the calendars are actually an expense from a larger budget item, but the exercise should prove informative). There were 203 programs receiving less than $1 million, which cost taxpayers $73 Million. Jumping up to programs receiving $10 million or less (equil to less than $1 per person) there were 450 programs costing taxpayers over $1 billion. And at $60 million - remember that this is the annual cost of Governor Rendell's energy plan, which he bills as the cost of a cup of coffee per/month - I found 571 programs costing $3.9 billion.

It goes to show you, a million here and a million there, and suddenly your talking about real money.

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