Is lieutenant governor mansion worth its cost?
Nestled on a wooded hillside at Fort Indiantown Gap is a one-of-a-kind home – and it comes with a one-of-a-kind price tag to taxpayers.
The 2,400-square-foot lieutenant governor’s residence off Fisher Avenue in East Hanover Township may be the only residence that any state provides to its second in command.
The typically ignored home became the center of an unusual political controversy recently when Lt. Gov. Mike Stack responded to reports that Gov. Tom Wolf had ordered an investigation into allegations that Stack verbally abused staff and asked state police to use lights and sirens while driving him in non-emergency situations.
But even in the best of times, critics insist the mansion is an extravagance taxpayers can’t afford. The state has spent more than $340,000 already this year from a fund assigned to the home, which serves as the residence for an official with limited constitutional duties.
Eric Epstein, coordinator of state watchdog group Rock the Capitol, suggested the lieutenant governor should live in the governor’s mansion on Front Street in Harrisburg.
“In America, we call that a duplex,” Epstein said.
But former lieutenant governors and their families say the Gap home – called the State House – has strategic and historical significance that shouldn’t be underestimated. It is on a military base that could allow for the lieutenant governor to get in the air via helicopter quickly in the event of an emergency.
Former Lt. Gov. Mark Singel said he often lightened the governor’s load by greeting visitors from other states and countries at the State House on his behalf. He once took a phone call from President Bill Clinton while in its home office.
“I believe it’s a treasure, and Pennsylvania ought to keep it,” Singel said.
Current staffing at the residence includes one full-time employee who performs maintenance and landscaping work; an as-needed cook for official lieutenant governor functions; and cleaning personnel who provide housekeeping activities twice per week “as resources allow,” said Pennsylvania Department of General Services Press Secretary Troy Thompson.
There are other employees assigned to the home, but they are actually working elsewhere, Thompson said. That means the actual cost of maintaining the home is less than the $340,000 Pennsylvania taxpayers officially paid for it in the 2016-17 fiscal year, he said.
Julia Hurst, director of the National Lieutenant Governors Association, said she isn’t aware of any state other than Pennsylvania providing a residence for its second-in-command. Kentucky used to have a lieutenant governor’s residence but turned it into a museum in 2002.