This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
Large subventions to privately managed concerns are further facilitated by that clause of the constitution which requires the appropriation to each charitable institution to be voted upon as a separate measure. The purpose of this provision was to make each grant stand upon its own merits and to prevent improper and indefensible subsidies from being included in the same bill with such necessary and urgent appropriations as those for the support of general government. But in recent years the number of appropriation bills has become so large that it is practically impossible for the members of the legislature to get a comprehensive view of the total of appropriations for charity. The ordinary member cannot know definitely when he is asked to vote upon a grant to any given institution how large will be the total of all such grants when the session is over. To make each institution stand on its own merits is undoubtedly a wise provision, but a systematic budgetary statement should be instituted in order that the members of the General Assembly may know how large the total of such appropriations will probably be after all proposed bills have been passed.
At the present time the amount granted to any particular institution, and the total of all appropriations are determined, subject to the governor's veto, by the chairmen of the appropriation committees. When the bills are reported by the committees they are, in a majority of cases, accepted by the two houses without question. *12 In one instance in recent years the Senate refused to consider the protest of a senator against an appropriation to an organization in his own district. *13 Procedure within the committees is not revealed to the public. Only infrequently is it necessary for a committee to explain why the grant to a hospital or home has been increased or decreased, and there is ground for believing that the real reasons for making some appropriations would not bear inspection. *14
A reading of the laws upon the subject might lead one to believe that the state board of charities played an important part in determining the amount and distribution of the total appropriation. Each institution is required to submit to inspection by a representative of the board whose duty it is to decide whether the work of the concern is satisfactory. Furthermore each organization that expects to receive state aid is legally required to make its request through the board. The board then decides upon the amount that, in its judgment, should be granted each institution and transmits its recommendations to the General Assembly.
The appropriation committees appear to pay little attention to these recommendations, preferring to rely for guidance upon the reports of their sub-committees and upon such other information as may come to them. In 1913, 157 private hospitals and 7 sanitoria for consumptives applied to the state board for aid. They asked for $6,660,763 for maintenance and $3,944,431 for buildings for the biennium ending May 31,1915. The board recommended $5,013,138 for maintenance and $32,000 for building Seven applications were rejected entirely. *15 Homes and miscellaneous institutions asked for $1,757,950 for maintenance and $537,690 for buildings. The board approved $1,058,152 for maintenance and $1,000 for buildings. *16 The legislature at its next session, in 1913, voted $7,189,900 to hospitals and sanitoria for maintenance and buildings, *17 and $1,198,565 to homes and miscellaneous organizations. *18
12 Fleisher, A. Pennsylvania's Appropriations to Privately Managed Charitable Institutions. Pol. Sci. Quar. Vol. XXX. p. 29.
14 See infra pp. 218 ff. where this subject is taken up more fully.
15 Board of Public Charities, Preliminary Report (1913), pp. 149-156. In a leaflet published subsequent to the Preliminary Report the statement is made that 149 hospitals were recommended to receive $4,949,638 for maintenance and $32,000 for buildings. See Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Statistics Compiled by the Board of Public Charities, showing amounts recommended, appropriated and approved for charities, session of 1913, for the two years ending May 31,1915.
It is apparent from the data that in making up the appropriations for subventions for charity the committees pay very little attention to the advice of the board. It is commonly stated by legislators and by other state officials in conversation that the General Assembly has in the past approved these bills with a full knowledge that they are excessive, that the revenues of the state will not be sufficient to meet them, and that the governor will be compelled to reduce them. This practice is undoubtedly responsible in part for the growth of appropriations to privately managed charities.
The increase of biennial appropriations under this system is shown in the table on following page.
16 Board of Public Charities, Preliminary Report (1913), p. 164.
17 Statistics Compiled by the Board of Public Charities, etc., A leaflet.
18 These figures do not include the appropriations to schools for defectives or for reformatories or for the county hospitals for the insane.