News & Brews August 9, 2023

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Taxpayer cost still TBD as union ratifies new state contract

AFSCME Council 13, which represents about 27,000 (or nearly half of) state employees under Gov. Shapiro’s jurisdiction, has ratified a new four-year contract. The contract was negotiated behind closed doors with Gov. Shapiro. PennLive reports that “the new contract contains pay raises exceeding 22% over the next four years….” The cost to taxpayers has not yet been released. Additionally, “Negotiations with other state employees’ unions whose contracts expired on June 30, 2023 are continuing, but the AFSCME contract usually sets the terms of the salary and benefits packages contained in those deals.”

VP Harris visits Philly, announces regulatory gift to unions

In her visit to Philadelphia yesterday, Vice President Kamala Harris announced a regulatory change that will raise the cost of federal and federally backed construction projects. The new regulation adjusts the definition of “prevailing wage.” And under the new rule, wages at these sites would be tied to wages paid to at least 30% of workers, whereas previously it was 50%. Prevailing wages are often set by unions and significantly higher than market rate. In response to the new regs, the Associated Builders and Contractors noted, “The final rule comes in the midst of challenging economic conditions facing the construction industry….  The onerous new requirements and artificial inflation of construction costs imposed by this rule will only exacerbate these headwinds and undermine taxpayer investments in infrastructure.”

Shapiro’s unproductive first six months?

An analysis by our friends at the Commonwealth Foundation found that “Gov. Josh Shapiro’s first six months were the least productive of any gubernatorial term in at least 50 years…. Through the end of July 2023, only 15 bills reached Shapiro’s desk. This contrasts with an average of 86 bills enacted in the same time frame in the previous 12 terms.”

Shapiro touts universal school breakfast, defends Lifeline veto

Yesterday, Gov. Josh Shapiro praised the inclusion of funding for universal school breakfast in the state budget. City & State PA reports that the program “will be available to students regardless of their income level….” At the same event, Shapiro defended his line-item veto of $100 million for Lifeline Scholarships, claiming he had to veto the scholarships to get the budget done. (Notably, the budget is still not done.) In response, a House Republican spokesperson said, “Today’s event, held at a failing school, is nothing but a reminder of the biggest missed opportunity in this budget: the failure to transform our education system so that it will truly be a child-first, family-focused experience.”

Op-Ed: Ohio proves teachers unions wrong

The Commonwealth Foundation’s Nathan Benefield writes that Gov. Josh Shapiro can learn from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine when it comes to education reform. Ohio’s new state budget not only increased funding for public schools but also expanded the state’s school choice program and implemented additional education reforms. Notably, despite teachers unions’ claims that school choice ruins public education, research shows Ohio’s program “improved public schools.“ Nate writes: “Ohio has proved the teachers unions wrong: Increased public investment in schools and school choice are not mutually exclusive proposals.”

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