During my time serving the 100th District, a handful of well-meaning residents have walked into my taxpayer-funded Lancaster County district office and requested campaign lawn signs. They have always walked out empty handed. In fact, if I tried to conduct campaign activities from my legislative office, I’d end up in jail—as other politicians have. And that’s how it should be.
Taxpayer-funded government resources should not be used for politics. Unfortunately, there’s a big loophole in state law.
Likewise, just think if I requested that the House payroll system be used to deduct voluntary campaign contributions for my re-election campaign from my staff’s paychecks. You can imagine the response: Absolutely not.
The objection would not be over the staff’s desire to contribute, or the cost of deducting the money. Instead, the request would be denied as a matter of ethics: Public resources cannot be used for politics.
That’s because taxpayer-funded government resources should not be used for politics. Unfortunately, there’s a big loophole in state law.
State and local governments across Pennsylvania regularly use public resources to collect campaign funds for a special group of political players: Government union leaders. These funds are used for lobbying and political fundraising and even given directly to candidates. And government unions are the only organizations in Pennsylvania that can use public resources to raise their political dollars.
This is an insult to Pennsylvanians who deserve better from their government.
That’s why for the past few sessions I have introduced and championed legislation called paycheck protection, which would restore the integrity of public resources by ending the use of government systems for political fundraising.
As commonsense as this reform is, some still oppose it, relying on myths and scare tactics to misrepresent what this legislation does—and does not—do.
I believe Pennsylvanians deserve the truth.
The truth is Pennsylvania government union leaders use taxpayer-funded payroll systems to collect money from public employees for three purposes: 1) union dues and fees used for representational activities; 2) union dues used for political activity such as lobbying and radio/TV ads; and 3) political action committee contributions given directly to candidates. The latter two uses are explicitly political in nature.
The truth is, since 2007, Pennsylvania’s government unions have spent nearly $100 million on politics—most of which they collected via automatic deduction from workers’ paychecks using public resources.
The truth is this immoral practice, which would land any elected official in jail, has gone unchecked for years.
If we care about ethics and integrity in government, we cannot let this continue.
My bill would transition the collection of political money back where it belongs—outside the scope of public resources and into the hands of government union leaders.
These unions would still be free to use public resources to collect non-political union dues and fees used for collective bargaining and representational work. However, government unions would no longer enjoy the special privilege of using public resources to collect money used for political activity. Just like every other private organization in Pennsylvania, they would begin collecting political money directly from those who donate it, without using taxpayers as their middleman.
Opponents of this reform claim they are fighting to protect workers’ voices, but the truth is this reform will give public workers greater voice in how their money is spent on politics. Because government unions will collect their political dollars directly from members, they will be more accountable to members regarding how those dollars are spent.
Opponents also argue they are working to preserve government unions’ ability to collectively bargain, but this reform does not affect collective bargaining rights or prevent unions from engaging in political activity. It simply separates taxpayer resources and electoral politics.
The state Senate passed similar legislation in February.
It’s time my colleagues in the House also make this good government reform a priority.
The law should apply equally to everyone. Paycheck protection would be a major step toward making this principle a reality.
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Representative Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) is the Pennsylvania House Majority Whip.