'Transparency' Governor Negotiates $3.4 Billion Contracts with Campaign Funders in Secret

News Release

For Immediate Release
Commonwealth Foundation
Contact: 717-671-1901

‘Transparency’ Governor Negotiates $3.4 Billion* Contracts
with Campaign Funders in Secret

Budget Secretary Evades Questions on Negotiations, Keeping Taxpayers in the Dark

March 17, 2015, HARRISBURG, Pa.—Imagine you’re looking for a new home. If your real estate agent picked a house, made an offer for an amount you couldn’t afford, and handed you a contract signed in your name before you even took a tour, you’d probably call a lawyer. What if you then discovered that your agent was close friends with the seller and stood to profit as the result of the sale?

That’s the situation taxpayers face as their agent, Gov. Wolf, negotiates government union contracts worth nearly $3.4 billion behind closed doors. Worse, those same unions were some of his largest campaign donors. This, after the governor himself criticized “back room deals that erode the public’s trust.”

“As we speak, Governor Wolf is negotiating billions of our dollars with special interests who gave him millions for his campaign,” commented Nathan Benefield, vice president of policy analysis for the Commonwealth Foundation. “The appearance of a conflict of interest is inescapable. Just six of the sixteen government unions the governor is negotiating with contributed nearly $2.6 million to his gubernatorial campaign.

“Despite Wolf’s promise to be ‘a different kind of governor,’ the negotiating process remains shrouded in secrecy. Yet, Governor Wolf has an opportunity to follow through on his promises of transparency and ‘a government that works’ by opening these negotiations up to public scrutiny before these costly contracts are signed.”

Union Contracts 2015

Union

Description

Employees

Avg. Total Compensation

Total Cost

Expiration

AFSCME

Master Agreement

30,808

$72,243

$2,225,662,344

6/30/2015

SEIU Local 668

Social Workers

8,955

$81,152

$726,716,160

6/30/2015

SEIU Healthcare

Nurses, Non-Supervisory

1,142

$106,460

$121,577,320

6/30/2015

UFCW Local 1776

Liquor Store Clerks

1,437

$59,947

$86,143,839

6/30/2015

ISSU

Liquor Store Managers

689

$79,049

$54,464,761

6/30/2015

CIVEA

Corrections Education Teachers

353

$104,257

$36,802,721

6/30/2015

FOSCEP

Educational & Cultural

306

$99,173

$30,346,938

6/30/2015

OPEIU

Nurse Supervisors

228

$124,071

$28,288,188

6/30/2015

PLEA

Liquor Law Enforcement Officers

111

$79,696

$8,846,256

6/30/2015

PSRA

DCNR Rangers

86

$86,614

$7,448,804

6/30/2015

FOP

Capitol Police

74

$90,015

$6,661,110

6/30/2015

CBA

PUC Attorneys

25

$128,113

$3,202,825

6/30/2015

PSEA

Non-Tenured Teachers

27

$104,018

$2,808,486

6/30/2015

ALES

Liquor Law Enforcement Supervisors

24

$102,027

$2,448,648

6/30/2015

PDA

Physicians

142

$172,197

$24,451,974

6/30/2012

UGSOA

Security Officers

177

$64,716

$11,454,732

8/31/2014

Total

 

44,584

 

$3,377,325,106

 

Contracts: http://www.oa.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/collective_bargaining_m_d/20137

Compensation Data: http://www.oabis.state.pa.us/SGWS/2015/SGWS_MAIN.html

 

Negotiations Shrouded in Secrecy

At Monday’s appropriations hearings, Sen. Mike Folmer asked Secretary of the Budget Randy Albright for details like the cost and timeframe of government union contract negotiations. Albright repeatedly evaded these questions, saying he was not at liberty to disclose this information.

Benefield remarked:

“This exchange highlights the lack of transparency in the negotiating process. Pennsylvania law does not require contracts to be made public before or even after they are signed. Because the process is so opaque, taxpayers end up getting a bill before they have any idea what they’re buying.

“Posting collective bargaining proposals online, providing the public with a cost estimate of collective bargaining proposals before adoption, and opening negotiations up to the public would go a long way to restoring public confidence in the process.

“Governor Wolf said it himself, ‘It is time to restore the public’s trust in government by pushing for reforms and initiatives that increase openness and transparency.’ Today, the governor can lead by example.”

Conflict of Interest Could be Mitigated

Much of the $2.6 million donated to the Wolf campaign by six of the sixteen government unions whose contracts are being negotiated was collected from public employees’ paychecks using public payroll systems. Provisions in the contracts themselves enable the state collection of government union political money.

“SEIU, AFSCME, and UFCW alone gave nearly $1.7 million to elect the man now sitting across the table from them in these contract negotiations,” Benefield commented. “If Governor Wolf is serious about ethics, transparency, and ending conflicts of interest, he can negotiate an end to the taxpayer-subsidized collection of political money. Otherwise he will be helping some of his largest political donors use state resources to collect money that will almost certainly be sent right back to him for his reelection.”

Nathan Benefield and other Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact us at 717-671-1901 to schedule an interview.

# # #

For more information, please contact or director of media relations for the Commonwealth Foundation at 717-671-1901 or media@commonwealthfoundation.org.

The Commonwealth Foundation transforms free-market ideas into public policies so all Pennsylvanians can flourish.

*Note: An earlier version incorrectly stated the cost as $3.8 billion rather than $3.4 billion.