Lawmakers Join Push to Put Proposed Government Union Contracts Online

MacIver News Service | December 1, 2010

[Madison, Wisc…] The push for greater transparency in the ongoing negotiations between the State of Wisconsin and its government employee unions gained momentum Wednesday as two powerful lawmakers asked the Doyle Administration to post the agreements online.

Wednesday morning State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and State Representative Robin Vos (R-Caledonia) sent a letter to Secretary of Administration Dan Schooff formally making the request. Vos and Darling will be the co-chairs of the powerful Legislative Joint Committee on Finance when the new session convenes January 3rd.

“In the interest of complete transparency, and to protect the taxpayers, we request that these documents be made available on the state web page for the public, the media, and lawmakers so they can be thoroughly reviewed and analyzed,” Vos and Darling wrote. “Current state employee union contracts housed at the DOA web page comprise 2,012 pages. We would hate to see the current batch of contracts voted upon by the lame duck Legislature without having the opportunity for all Wisconsin taxpayers to review the details.”

The move comes one day after the MacIver Institute, a free market think tank in Madison, issued a public plea to government union members for copies of the contracts, which they intend to post on their website.  MacIver News Service is a project of the MacIver Institute.

Vos and Darling write that piecemeal revelations by the leaders of some government employee unions do not equate to true transparency. The pair also say they believe it is imperative lawmakers have a full understanding of the fiscal impact of the proposed contracts in light of the $3.3 billion budget deficit.

“We need maximum flexibility to balance the budget,” they conclude. “And taxpayers deserve maximum transparency, so please put the contracts on the internet.”

The agreements, negotiated by the Doyle Administration and 19 collective bargaining units, must be ratified by the Joint Committee on Employment Relations and the legislature. In most cases, the agreements between the State and the public employee unions also require the ratification of the rank and file union members. It is members of that group whom Healy hopes will forward copies of the contracts.

“We have received a lot of information about these contracts, including memoranda of understanding and summary documents,” said Healy. “We continue to make our request directly for more information, but surely it would be best, and easiest, if the State would heed the wishes of Senator Darling and Representative Vos and publish the full contracts on the State web page.”