Today the Senate's State Government Committee advanced three bills to open up government collective bargaining negotiations to the public.
SB 168, sponsored by Sen. Pat Stefano, would require all levels of government (including school districts) to publicize proposed collective bargaining agreements before they go into effect. SB 503, sponsored by Sen. Ryan Aument, would subject contract negotiations to Pennsylvania's Sunshine Act. Lastly, SB 504, sponsored by Sen. Scott Martin, would make proposed contracts subject to the state's Right to Know law.
Each bill gives the public much needed access to the contracts their elected officials are negotiating behind closed doors. These contracts cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually, with little or no citizen input. In fact, the contracts are frequently negotiated between politicians who take campaign contributions from the very unions they are negotiating with.
These bills follow up on Act 15 of 2016 (and then Act 100, which added the new language to the Administrative Code), which requires a financial review all proposed state collective bargaining agreements before they take effect.
New collective bargaining contracts Gov. Wolf negotiated with 11 unions will cost taxpayers an additional $561 million over three years, according to estimates released by the Independent Fiscal Office. Prior to this law, neither lawmakers nor the public knew the true cost of these contracts.
Unfortunately, the additional costs will only make the looming budget deficit more difficult to solve, which is all the more reason to make taxpayers part of the collective bargaining process.