The state budget deadline came and went without passage of any of the "Big Three" policy items—liquor store privatization, pension reform, or transportation tax and fee increases. It was clear heading down the stretch that while pension reform made progress, there wasn't agreement on all the details.
But many pundits expected deals to be cut to get liquor privatization and transportation done. So what happened?
To the surprise of many, government union bosses spent last weekend trying to stop the House from passing any transportation funding plan. Their opposition wasn't done because of any principled opposition to the proposal, but solely out of spite. Their lobbying effort was aimed at blocking transportation funding so the Senate would not act on liquor store privatization, despite having both legislative and public support for that.
PA Independent notes emails sent from leadership of the Independent State Stores Union, representing liquor store managers, trying to thwart the entire policy agenda.
As further evidence that the two issues are linked: on Saturday, a union opposing liquor privatization began urging House Democrats to block the transportation bill – despite the fact that other major unions in the state favor the transportation spending plan that would put an estimated 12,000 people to work.
"Privatization is now being tied to transportation funding currently being deliberated by the House. Call your House Representative, Republican or Democrat, and tell them to vote NO to transportation until the Senate pulls the plug on privatization of the state stores," read a portion of the email sent by the Independent State Store Union, which represents managerial-level employees in the state-run liquor system.
It seems that the efforts of the government unions were effective, at least for the time being. As the Patriot News reports,
Meanwhile, House Republicans pointed to an email from union leaders as perhaps the culprit behind the Democrats’'stubbornness about negotiate their demands. The email urged union members to call on lawmakers to vote against the transportation bill "until the Senate pulls the plug on privatization of the state stores."
For those who still wonder why these major reforms stalled out, look no further than the special interests who would do anything to preserve the status quo.