Questions cost of using outside legal counsel to continue to reject legal marriages in release issued today:
As arguments are expected to begin next week in a pivotal marriage equality court case, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today questioned the cost Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage restrictions are having on same-sex couples and the wisdom of wasting tax dollars on a legal fight to maintain the ban when the budget deficit is growing.
“It is unquestionably unfair to have people pay higher taxes on health benefits, or higher anything for that matter, simply because they are in a legally recognized same-sex marriage from another state,” DePasquale said.
He estimates that under the current law, a legally married same-sex couple living and working in Pennsylvania with a combined income of $100,000, where one partner works for the commonwealth, is taxed on the employer-provided portion of health benefits and annually pays approximately $1,600 more than a heterosexual couple.
“It is not right that simply because they do not meet Pennsylvania’s legal definition of ‘married,’ the same-sex couple is forced to pay more in taxes because of the health care benefits that they receive from their commonwealth-employed partner.
“Now, with the state facing an estimated $1 billion budget shortfall, we cannot afford to pay $300-400 per hour to fight for an unfair law that denies recognition of, and penalizes, legally married same-sex couples,” DePasquale said. “We can’t afford legal bills like this when the administration is looking at making additional budget cuts. We’ve already seen the financial devastation from previous education cuts.”
In the past two years the commonwealth spent more than $10 million on outside law firms and legal counsel for the failed Lottery privatization effort, nearly $1 million more to defend the Voter ID law that was ruled unconstitutional and approximately $5 million wasted on the unnecessary ad campaign.
“Throwing away tens of millions of dollars in legal fees with a $1 billion budget hole looming is bad fiscal policy and bad public policy,” DePasquale said.
“Cutting out the millions of dollars in outside legal expenses won’t solve the budget shortfall, but it would be a step in the right direction.”