The powerful Republican senator was part of the leadership team that decided last year to end un-itemized meal and lodging reimbursements, called per diems, for senators who live within 50 miles of the Capitol.
The reform went into effect in early January to stop senators who live close to the Capitol from claiming the blanket reimbursement.
It didn't dawn on Armstrong until recently that the rule could apply to him.
"I didn't even think about it," he said. "It didn't even matter to me."
The per diem system has come under scrutiny for alleged abuse because senators, regardless of where they lived, could claim the per diems by staying overnight or eating any meals on legislative business.
Last year, state records show Armstrong, who represents parts of Lancaster and York counties, was reimbursed $7,830 in per diems.
No one, including Armstrong himself, is sure if he will be cut off from per diems by the 50-mile rule. His distance from the Capitol depends on the route he takes, he said, and the rule isn't clear on how it should be applied.
Armstrong, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, acknowledges the shortest route from his Lancaster County home to the Capitol is less than 50 miles. The current maximum per diem is $129 per day when on legislative business.
Quickest or shortest?: But he argues the quickest route, which is currently cut off because of a closed bridge, is actually slightly longer than 50.
"I don't want to be sitting in traffic lights," he said.
The temporary route Armstrong now uses is a bit longer than 100 miles round-trip, he said. Traveling from his home to the Capitol is 49.7 miles using what he says is the second-fastest route. It's a bit longer in the other direction, he said.
For now, his distance to the Capitol has not faced official questioning.
Senate Chief Clerk Russ Faber said his office would not look into the distance from Armstrong's home to the Capitol until he submits a per diem request. Armstrong said he hasn't submitted a per diem this year and isn't sure if he will.
"Until such time as he may or may not submit something, it's really not an issue," Faber said.
The state will generally take legislators' word on their distance from the Capitol, Faber said. However, people near the line could get a second look.
"Now that we have the new rule, if we have someone who's marginal we'll go back and look at it again," Faber said.
Even if Armstrong can't get per diems because of the rule, he would still be eligible for expenses if he filed his receipts, according to the Faber's office.
Armstrong said his distance from the Capitol might be a moot point. Senate leaders are discussing more per diem reform, including the elimination of per diems altogether in favor of requiring legislators to be reimbursed only for actual expenses.
But Armstrong doesn't like that idea because he says it could infringe on his privacy. He doesn't want anyone interested to know where he's stayed, and he says it could provide ammunition to people looking to bash senators.
Sen. Mike Waugh, R-Shrewsbury, said he believes the 50-mile rule should be implemented based on the quickest route, not necessarily the shortest.
"I think it should be based on the most logical and convenient way to drive," he said.
But Waugh, who said he's never taken a per diem, disagrees with any legislator who purposely takes a longer route to make the trip 50 miles.
"If the person is going out of their way in order to capture 50 miles, then that's a little unfair," said Waugh, who lives 42 miles away.
Speaking generally, Sen. Pat Vance said, at first glance it seems a senator should use the shortest distance to calculate from the Capitol.
But Vance, whose district is all of Cumberland and the northwestern section of York County, said there should be flexibility if the case can be made that the per diems are necessary for a particular legislator.
"I would say that person would have to prove their own case and prove to their constituents they should take the per diem," she said.
When there was no mileage restriction on per diems, Armstrong said, he took per diems because it was allowed under Senate rules.
Not personal income: Armstrong said he didn't personally benefit from per diem money. He said it went into an account to help cover his official expenses.
Many of the times he took the per diems he didn't stay overnight, he said. There was nothing wrong with taking the per diems because he was allowed to under Senate rules, he said. "You could take or it or not take it," Armstrong said. "When I was in session I took per diems. It's that simple."
-- Reach Carl Lindquist at 505-5432 or email@example.com.
Per diem expenses
Both the state Senate and House this week are considering various reforms dealing with expense payments. Here's a list of local legislators and the amount of per diems they were reimbursed last year. The per diems can be used for legislative business, including during days when legislators are in session at the Capitol or at committee meetings throughout the state. Figures for the House members are through November.
Sen. Gib Armstrong, R-Lancaster: $7,830
Sen. Jeff Piccola, R-Dauphin: No per diems
Sen. Mike Waugh, R-Shrewsbury: No per diems
Sen. Pat Vance, R-Cumberland County: No per diems
Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin County: $8,077
Rep. Bev Mackereth, R-Spring Grove: No per diems
Rep. Steve Nickol, R-Hanover: $204
Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor: No per diems
Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus: $1,043
Rep. Keith Gillespie, R-Springettsbury: $32.93
Rep. Steve Stetler, D-York City: $125
Rep. Bruce Smith, R-Dillsburg: $1,283
Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-York City: Not in office
Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg: Not in office.