House Passes Historic Government Union Contract Transparency
Would Lift Veil of Cost Secrecy from Government Union Deals
March 21, 2016, HARRISBURG, Pa.—Today, the state House passed SB 644 (108-83) to bring much-needed cost transparency to government union contracts—contracts Governor Wolf is negotiating behind closed doors right now.
“Last week, Gov. Wolf called for expanded government transparency, claiming, ‘special interests still wield too much power and influence in Harrisburg’,” commented Matthew Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation. “Now, Wolf has a chance to put his money where his mouth is. Wolf himself is currently negotiating contracts worth a combined $3.6 billion with 18 government unions, several of which donated millions to his election campaign.”
Sponsored by Sen. Mike Folmer, SB 644 would shine light on the cost of these contracts by empowering the Independent Fiscal Office to provide cost estimates on government union contracts prior to ratification.
“These contracts cover everything from state employee salary and benefits to union release time and deduction of campaign contributions,” continued Brouillette. “It’s critical that lawmakers and taxpayers find out how much the bills are before they’re forced to foot them, and this legislation will make sure this happens.”
Case in point: last year, taxpayers learned about $23 million in additional costs in a one-year contract with AFSCME only after the contract was finalized.
Secret negotiations have contributed to a rapid rise in state employee costs. Since 2000, average government worker benefit costs tripled from $12,732 to nearly $39,000. Total compensation per employee reached an average of nearly $93,000 in 2014-15.
Brouillette concluded: “Hiding contract costs is the antithesis of government transparency and accountability. It’s time to bring these secret-deal costs to light if we truly want a government that works.”
SB 644 now heads back to the Senate for final passage before it can reach Governor Wolf’s desk.
Matthew Brouillette and other Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Gina Diorio at 862-703-6670 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.
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