This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
One of the principal objections to the subventions to charity, as they existed in 1868-69, was the planless, capricious manner in which they were made. Certain institutions had received a single grant; others had been encouraged for a number of years and then summarily cut off.
Some institutions had received aid for a period of years, had then been denied appropriations for a time, for no apparent good reason, and had again been reinstated in favor for a third period. Flagrant discrimination existed between institutions that were equally deserving, some receiving liberal appropriations each year, while others were completely neglected. In short, the subventions had been increased and diminished, granted and refused, in good measure from personal considerations. *155 The committee probably did not intend to apply this statement to all the subventions, for some were made in accordance with fixed rules. Thus the annual grants to the institutions for the blind, the deaf mutes, and feeble-minded children were made on the basis of the number of indigent children they received.
On the other hand, the strongest terms that the committee could have employed would have been justified in characterizing the grants to hospitals, to the asylum for the insane, to the house of refuge, and to orphanages. It is practically impossible to discover the method employed by the legislature to determine the amounts to be appropriated for such institutions. Reports were required from the larger concerns,, but these documents are nearly unintelligible from an accounting standpoint and the information they contain is meagre in the extreme. *156. Of course, very little aid in making scientific appropriations could have been derived from these reports; and the admission of one member of the
General Assembly that, ".....we put them in our desks, and in the hurry of business (sic) we never look at them again,..... *157 was probably typical of the attitude of a majority of the legislature. An impartial observer would say that the reports received all the attention they deserved. Sometimes the officers of the institutions appeared before the legislature to explain their needs. *158 There is little doubt that the total amount of the subventions and the distribution in any year were largely determined in committee according to the well-known methods of politics; but no echo of these proceedings, as a rule, reached the newspapers or was recorded in the official journals.
155 Report of the Committee, Sen Jour. (1869), p. 154.
156 The accounts abound in such entries as, "to cash received from the Birch legacy," (capital or income?), "to cash Harrisburg and Lancaster Railroad," or "interest, contribution, etc."
157 Mr. Everett, in the Senate, 18 March, 1869, Legislative Record, p. 1339, col. 1.
158 See, for example, a statement in the Annual Report (1849) of The Institution for the Blind, pp. 7-8.
Those who urged reform of the appropriations to charities, in 1869, seem to have concentrated their efforts in an attempt to compel the legislature to observe some sort of plan in making the subventions. The four rules laid down by the Senate committee were but a part of the program for accomplishing that reform. In accordance with the resolution which provided for their appointment159 the committee considered the advisability of creating a state board that should inspect or investigate the applicants for state aid and report the result of their findings to the legislature.
After some time they proposed a board of five to be appointed by the Governor. The members were to serve without pay. The board was to be empowered to employ a general agent who should devote all his time to the investigation of the various institutions that received state aid and prepare systematic reports for the information of the legislature. The bill drawn by the committee was adopted with slight modifications by the General Assembly. *160
The act creating the board made it specifically their (or their agent's) duty to visit all subsidized institutions and to " ascertain whether the moneys appropriated for their aid are [were] or have [had] been economically and judiciously expended; whether the object of the several institutions are [were] accomplished; whether the laws in relation to them are [were] fully complied with; whether all parts of the state are [were] equally benefited by them. . . ," *161 The board was given power to call witnesses and to compel the production of books, accounts, and papers. *162 Finally, the act made it the duty of the general agent to receive requests for state aid from the various institutions and to transmit them with his recommendations to the legislature. *163
159 The committee was composed of the Superintendent of Common Schools and two senators.
160 Act 24 April, 1869, P.L. p. 90.
161 Idem, p. 91.
162 Idem, p. 90.
163 Idem, p. 92.