News & Brews July 31, 2023

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Some details emerge of Shapiro’s closed-door union negotiations

The actual cost to taxpayers of tentative contracts Gov. Shapiro negotiated with two government unions is yet-to-be-determined. But under the agreements—which Shapiro negotiated behind closed doors—some state employees could see pay raises of more than 20% over the next four years. These negotiations happen in secret, with no transparency during the process for taxpayers to see what they’re funding. The Commonwealth Foundation’s Nathan Benefield noted, “It’s one of the major costs of state government that drives up taxes … but most Pennsylvanians have no input in this deal, which is largely between Governor Shapiro and his campaign donors quite frankly,” (Relatedly, check out this WSJ editorial on Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s similar handout to his union pals.)

Campaign ‘reimbursements’ raise eyebrows

The executive director of the Pa. House Democratic Campaign Committee has received more than $365K in “reimbursements” from the committee over the past three years. Broad + Liberty reports that Trevor Southerland has “racked up seven reimbursements over $20,000, with the highest of them ringing up all the way to $39,000.” Campaign finance law requires descriptions of expenditures. Yet lump-sum “reimbursements” allow specific purchases to be “hidden, at least temporarily.” The story adds that there could be a “legitimate reason” for the reimbursements. But “Southerland and the HDCC’s press secretary did not return requests for an explanation.”

Pa. Senate to return in August for budget

Although not originally scheduled to return to session until September, the Pa. Senate will reconvene in August to tackle the budget impasse. The news came Friday afternoon from Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward. PennLive reports, however, that “it remains uncertain how the rest of the state budget process may pan out.” The budget was stalled after Gov. Shapiro broke his word to support Lifeline Scholarships and instead caved to union-backed House Democrats.

Trump rallies in Erie

Former president Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Erie on Saturday. In addition to lobbing criticism surrounding ongoing investigations of him, he touched on topics including immigration, vaccine mandates, and crime.

WSJ: ‘The rising demand for school choice’

The Wall Street Journal editorial board tracks demand for school choice in several states that “have recently created or expanded school choice programs.” In some cases, demand may surpass the supply of private school seats. “But in time,” the ed board writes, “states that are generous” with school choice opportunity “are encouraging a variety of options…. That’s what a future of school choice looks like.”

Latest PLCB flop raises renewed calls for privatization

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the latest boondoggle from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board—and there have been many—is raising the age-old question: “Why does state government continue to be directly involved in wholesale alcohol sales at all?” The most recent mess surrounds the licensee online order portal (or LOOP), whose recent rollout “was riddled with bugs and confusing prompts.” The PLCB continues to argue for its own necessity (naturally). But with every mishap, the (already strong) argument against government’s liquor monopoly strengthens even more.

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