Today marks the 10th anniversary of the midnight pay raise. Although it was ultimately repealed, the pay raise was a dark hour in Pennsylvania political history. Over the past decade, though, state government has steadily moved toward increased openness, transparency, and accountability.
Here are a few reforms lawmakers have enacted to shed more light on state government:
- Open records law and creation of the Office of Open Records
- PennWatch, a searchable database of state expenditures
- Lobbying disclosure law
- Independent Fiscal Office (IFO), which releases independent revenue projections and selected analysis of legislative proposals
- Legislative rules preventing middle of the night votes
- Posting of roll call votes and fiscal notes online
Thanks to these measures, the public is better informed. Take Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal, for instance. Gov. Wolf may claim that his budget provides “property tax relief,” but the IFO estimates it would amount to a $4.5 billion tax hike on Pennsylvanians in EVERY income level. That’s just one example of how enhanced transparency helps taxpayers uncover the truth.
In that same spirit, the latest legislative push for transparency would shine light on negotiations for state worker contracts. Currently, taxpayers are kept in the dark about a process that adds millions of dollars each year to the cost of government.
Transparency alone will not return Pennsylvania to prosperity, but it serves as a powerful tool combating half-truths that are used to justify greater burdens on Pennsylvania families.