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Paying for zen: taxpayers funded yoga room in state capitol

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Pennsylvania taxpayers are used to footing the bill for a lot of things these days.

From funding to pay for legislation, to higher toll increases.

We've seen it all.

But there are questions tonight over whether taxpayers should pay for more leisurely activities inside the Capitol building.

CBS21 obtained documents detailing Senate appropriations -- taxpayer dollars -- used to buy items for a yoga room inside the capitol.

Take a stroll through the capitol and you'll find plenty of rooms you'd expect in a government building: legislators, offices, and the chamber floor.

But a taxpayer funded yoga and meditation room?

“Here’s a memo to the Senate: A yoga room is not a core function of government. It’s outrageous,” activist Eric Epstein said.

A recently-released audit shows the Senate used about $5,000 of taxpayer money since February 2017 to fund the room.

It features a water fountain, zen sand garden, and organic buckwheat-filled meditation cushions. “A yoga room isn’t going to fix roads, isn’t going to fix bridges, isn’t going to solve problems. It’s unnecessary and it’s, again, one of the things that makes people frustrated with government. Why in the world would we spend this kind of money on a yoga room that’s only available to an exclusive class of politicians?” Epstein added.

The audit shows the funding came out of the Senate's legislative caucus funds between January 2017 and December of last year.

Jennifer Kocher, Senate spokesperson, says the room was outfitted in an effort to reduce the cost of healthcare for members of the Senate since research shows it helps reduce stress.

“Whether it is yoga or whether it is Pilates or any of these types of things can help people and then help them in the work environment and increase productivity,” Kocher said.

But should taxpayers foot the bill for the items, instead of that money going towards a policy affecting the taxpayers?

“It wasn’t money that was taken out of any other accounts. It wasn’t taken away from any other programs. It was money that was already earmarked to the Senate for Senate expenses,” Kocher added.

The facility is only open to members of the Senate.

Representative Seth Grove found that out the hard after he tried to access it, and then tweeted a picture of him standing outside the locked door.

“Taxpayers should be irate. And if you don’t understand that this is a misappropriation of funds, you shouldn’t be in government,” Epstein said.

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