Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has made it clear he respects public employee unions’ right to collective bargaining. That isn’t enough, however, for the AFL-CIO’s national president, Richard Trumka, who visited Harrisburg Monday afternoon for a fundraiser thrown by House Democrat Bill DeWeese.
The Corbett Administration, in the midst of budget negotiations with 17 public employees unions, wants state workers to accept 4 percent pay cuts and furlough days. But, in a departure from the way other Republican governors across the country have treated labor, Corbett has negotiated with unions in good faith in the weeks before the June 30 deadline for new deals.
Trumka, a western Pennsylvania native, said he isn’t impressed. “It’s a step up, but we still ought to be going in the same direction, to create jobs,” he said. “And we shouldn’t have everything off the table. You shouldn’t sign a pledge before you take office that says you’ll do no revenue enhancers, and then say, we don’t have the money for education, we don’t have the money to job create. That puts the public at a disadvantage.” He later added Corbett and House Republican leaders’ plan to bank $540 million of unexpected tax revenue in a rainy day fund, rather than spend it, “isn’t fair.”
How can a state government create jobs when it’s facing a multibillion-dollar structural deficit? Trumka, taking a page from former Gov. Ed Rendell’s old playbook, said the answer is, “infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure.”
“It puts people back to work, it makes us more competitive as a nation, and it ultimately makes us more environmentally sound,” he explained. “There’s retrofitting we can do to buildings that exist. We can put hundreds of thousands of people back to work retrofitting and greening buildings up. There’s money to be done with all of that.”
When a reporter floated the suggestion Republicans had won power in Pennsylvania and Washington by campaigning against the very government spending that’s needed for massive infrastructure projects, Trumka disagreed. “What they argued for is that they’re going to do job creation. …And now they’re doing everything but job creation. And that’s why their poll numbers are falling like a large rock in a deep pond.”