Week of May 9, 2016
Column: Another Step Toward Reform
During this time, nearly 150 bills have been referred to the State Government Committee and about one-quarter have been reported to the full Senate for consideration, including: proposed Constitutional amendments to reduce the size of the General Assembly; Right to Know law updates; expansions of the Ethics Act, the Sunshine Law, and the Election Code; Civil Service and Procurement law changes; “paycheck protection”; lobbying disclosure requirements; medical cannabis; requiring proof of citizenship for public benefits; establishing an independent Inspector General, and; requiring fiscal estimates for proposed regulations.
These measures are in addition to the public hearings the Senate State Government Committee has held on a broad range of issues, including: ways to control government spending; proposed Article V amendments to the United States Constitution (held in cooperation with the House State Government Committee); voting issues (including my “ Voters’ Choice Act” and on-line voter registration), and; state procurement policies. The Committee also made recommendations on two Cabinet Secretaries: Pedro Cortes for Secretary of State and Curt Topper for General Services.
Last December, my “ Taxpayer Funded Advertising Transparency Act ” was signed into law as Act 90 of 2015. This small reform requires “Paid for with Pennsylvania taxpayer dollars” whenever Commonwealth agencies spend tax moneys on advertising.
Recently, another modest reform (my Senate Bill 644) was signed into law as Act 15 of 2016. This measure demonstrates my ongoing efforts to bring openness and transparency to state government by focusing on the costs – not the details – associated with the Commonwealth’s collective bargaining agreements.
There are a number of state employee contracts negotiated by governors from time to time – it’s part of their duties as Governor and I’m not in any way questioning gubernatorial authority to enter into these agreements.
However, whatever is negotiated by a Governor must ultimately be covered by budget appropriations paid for by taxpayers. I believe both elected officials and taxpayers should have information on these costs before these agreements are signed.
The Senate and House Appropriations Committees regularly prepare fiscal notes to determine estimated cost impacts of bills under consideration and these Fiscal Notes are the basis of many of the debates and deliberations of the General Assembly in considering proposed bills.
Like Fiscal Notes, Act 15 gives the General Assembly and the general public the ability to know the potential economic impacts union contracts will have on the state budget twenty days before they’re finalized.
The new law does this by empowering the Independent Fiscal Office to provide cost analyses for the current and subsequent fiscal years of the impacts each proposed agreement will have – prior to their execution.
When I introduced this legislation last year, there were a number of collective bargaining agreements set to expire, with total costs around $3 Billion, covering 44,584 state employees of the 72,176 under the Governor’s jurisdiction. A number of other contracts are set to expire both this year and next year, with estimated costs of over $1.5 Billion.
If these contracts increase state costs by just 1%, taxpayers would pay around $45 Million per year, with additional costs associated with covering employees’ health care and pension costs. Such impacts will significantly influence the current and future state budgets in paying state employees, covering their health care costs, and funding pensions.
While opponents claimed these changes are not broad solutions to reforming state government, I disagree. Every step that improves openness, transparency, and accountability helps to ensure government is being a better steward of taxpayers’ moneys and I look forward to advancing additional reform measures in the weeks and months ahead.
Recreation and Camping in Pennsylvania
Lebanon County PennDOT Maintenance Work Schedule
When contacting my office by e-mail, mail, or telephone, please be sure to share your e-mail, telephone number, and address so that we can follow up with you in a timely manner. Many inquiries can be handled with a phone call or email.
Was this message forwarded to you? Visit my website if you would like to receive your own copy of "Mike's Memo."
If you no longer wish to receive "Mike's Memo," please click
here to unsubscribe.
101 Municipal Building