The Call for Contract Transparency Continues

An ABC27 special investigation asks a simple question: “Would you pay a bill before you saw it?”

Most people would answer with a resounding no. Yet, as the report highlights, that’s exactly what happens when government unions secretly negotiate costly contracts with elected officials–and then hand taxpayers the bill.

Lawmakers have already introduced legislation to bring more transparency to the collective bargaining process. Senate Bill 503 would subject contract negotiations to the state’s Sunshine Act. And Senate Bill 504 would make information exchanged between parties during collective bargaining available under Pennsylvania’s Right to Know law.

Additionally, Sen. Pat Stefano’s legislation (SB 592 and SB 168) requires making contracts public two weeks prior to their ratification.

Watch the clip below for more information and comments from Sen. Stefano.

These closed-door negotiations have far-reaching costs.

We recently highlighted how contract transparency reforms could have helped prevent threats of a Pittsburgh teacher strike. Last summer, Philadelphia taxpayers learned the school district’s contract with teachers would cost an additional $395 million over five years—yet were never told the terms of the contract or how it would be paid for.  

Similarly, state government union contracts cost taxpayers billions of dollars and are frequently negotiated between politicians who take campaign contributions from the very unions they negotiate with.

For instance, in 2015, Gov. Wolf secretly negotiated $3.4 billion in contracts with government unions that gave nearly $1.7 million to his election campaign. In 2017, Gov. Wolf negotiated 11 new union contracts, costing taxpayers an additional $591 million over three years, according to estimates released by the Independent Fiscal Office. 

As Sen. Stefano says, these reforms make government more careful with taxpayers’ money. As Pennsylvania public officials debate how to restore state ethics, they have a crucial opportunity to fight against the appearance of corruption and secrecy by embracing contract transparency.