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CPBJ Extra Blog

Per diems vs. receipts for expenses — which do you prefer?

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I sure would love it if my boss gave me a blanket $159 daily to spend on whatever I deemed a work expense.

Right now, that's how it works for members of our state legislature. In fact, legislators don't need to produce receipts to show what they've spent that $159 on.

That's an employee's dream — and a boss's nightmare — because it's a system that works entirely on trust, not proof.

Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Allegheny and Butler counties, introduced legislation Friday that would ax the unvouchered per diem (remember that term from around the time of the midnight pay raise?) program and instead require lawmakers to submit receipts for their expenses.

What a great way to help hold our legislators responsible for their spending behavior. It would be a process that mirrors what almost every business does for expense reimbursement.

And, sadly, I'm sure Senate Bill 1291 will go nowhere.

Why? Because the legislators themselves must be the ones to approve it.

That's equivalent to you, the boss, telling your employees you have this idea to hold them all more accountable for their work-related spending — and then letting them vote on which method they prefer.

If you've got a small crew of honest people, you might get the vote result you were hoping for. But for the most part, if the employees get to choose, my bet is they'll stay with the per diems, thank you very much. It's less hassle for them, and they would probably feel as though you wanted to micromanage them.

But we're talking about taxpayers' money here, not just one single business and its revenue. And I believe our legislators need to be held to high accountability standards, particularly when it comes to how they spend our tax dollars.

I'd love to know what you think. Do you offer per diems for your employees, or do you have a submit-receipt-and-be-reimbursed system? What are your reasons for having such a policy? Have you ever changed your company's policy on reimbursements? Why or why not?

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Amy Gulli

Amy Gulli

Amy Gulli is the managing editor of the Central Penn Business Journal. Have a question or tip for her? Email her at amy@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter, @amygulli. Circle Amy Gulli on .

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