Union Advantages Yield Undue Influence

In today’s political landscape big money is usually associated with corporations and industries like oil or gas, however, government unions are the most advantaged special interest in Pennsylvania.

CF’s Nathan Benefield recently wrote a letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer responding to wrongheaded claims about the political influence of the natural gas industry:

A recent article purported to show the influence of the natural gas industry in Harrisburg, but the piece compares apples to — nothing.

While highlighting the “millions” spent by the natural gas industry, it ignores that the industry’s political spending is less than that of government employee unions.

Since 2007, the 14 largest government unions in Pennsylvania have spent $42 million on elections and $63 million on reported lobbying. They currently have 82 lobbyists registered in the state Capitol.

Government union leaders regularly lobby for a severance tax and dozens of other taxes. And the millions of dollars government unions pour into politics are collected at taxpayer expense, using public payroll systems. Only government unions enjoy this political privilege.

Those searching for groups with undue influence in Harrisburg need only look for the government union label.

comparison of 2016 election spending repeats the same theme, with government unions outspending the natural gas industry by $15 million.

Government unions’ call for constant tax hikes is the real threat to Pennsylvania. New taxes on natural gas production would lead to higher heating bills for 2.7 million homeowners. In Pennsylvania’s harsh tax environment, moreover, additional taxes would endanger many of the roughly 300,000 jobs in Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry. Indeed, the mere talk of a severance tax has stunted investment by the industry into new drilling projects.

Despite these problems, the unions regularly use dollars collected by taxpayers to advance the severance tax and other measures that would harm Pennsylvania. In the past seven years, government unions have collected nearly $244 million using taxpayer-funded payroll deductions.

In addition, many public employees have no choice but to hand over their hard-earned money to the unions in membership dues or pay a “fair share” fee even if they do not want representation.

Paycheck protection measures would close this unethical loophole by prohibiting government unions from using taxpayer-funded resources to raise political money. When it comes to the influence of special interests, union advantages are the real problem, and paycheck protection is the solution.