How elected leaders get you to pay a bill before you see it

Investigations

Would you pay a bill before you saw it?

State Sen. Pat Stefano (R) says that’s happening to your tax dollars. He’s pushing Senate Bills 592 and 168, which would require elected leaders to make school board and collective bargaining contracts public two weeks before a final vote.

Currently, contract votes are announced, but the terms do not need to be publicly disclosed under after the vote occurs.

“The people are on the hook for what these contracts are signed for without even knowing what they’ve paid for,” Stefano said. “There’s not a cable bill that you wouldn’t be very upset if it came in very high and you didn’t have a chance to dispute it or talk about it.”

Stefano says he knows not everyone has time to go to public meetings or wade through contract records online, but he contends the mere ability to see contract information would make elected leaders more careful with tax dollars and give a greater number of people a chance to weigh in.

School districts and municipal governments have argued that making contracts public could hurt negotiations because it would become more difficult to change the terms if the contracts are already posted.

“Any time you’re trying to change the status quo, you’re going to have a lot of resistance,” Stefano said. “I always say, ‘When you come into Pennsylvania, see the nice big sign that says, ‘Welcome to Pennsylvania?’ In small print underneath it says, ‘We don’t like change.'”

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