Reviving the Push for Transparency

Taxpayers scored a victory last year with the passage of Senate Bill 644 (now Act 15). The new law requires the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) to provide cost analysis reports for state collective bargaining agreements before they take effect.

Act 15 is an important step forward on the transparency front, but more needs to be done. Taxpayers remain shut out of negotiations far too often—despite shouldering the costs of union contracts. Providing the public with information about the collective bargaining process would serve as a check against the lavish deals with government union leaders that are common under today's opaque bargaining process.

In some cases, the union leaders on the other side of the negotiating table helped those same public officials get elected—an obvious conflict of interest that should not be ignored.

Sen. Stefano has reintroduced legislation to require the public posting of collective bargaining agreements—and their costs—two weeks before implementation.

Senators Ryan Aument and Scott Martin have also introduced transparency measures. Sen. Aument’s proposal would allow the public access to collective bargaining negotiations. Sen. Martin’s proposal would remove the collective bargaining exemption from the state’s Right-to-Know law—giving Pennsylvanians the ability to review documents used to determine compensation schedules.

With compensation exceeding $97,000 per public employee, now is the time to give taxpayers a seat at the collective bargaining table. Twelve states have already made the collective bargaining process open in some form. Pennsylvania should join these other states.

Leaving taxpayers in the dark while expensive contracts are hammered out in secret perpetuates Pennsylvania's reputation for corruption and waste. It's time to give those paying the bills a fair shake.