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SEIU Local 668 critical of Governor Rendell’s budget and makes suggestions

01.26.09

February 2009, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

SEIU Local 668 critical of Governor Rendell’s budget and makes suggestions

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

LEHIGH VALLEY, January 11th- The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 668, which represents approximately 20,000 human services workers in Pennsylvania, responsed to Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell’s request for suggestions on closing the state’s budget shortfall, by identifying millions of dollars that could be saved.

SEIU Local 668 stated the Governor should cancel contracts with private contractors for work that can be done more efficiently and for a lower cost by state employees.

“The need for human services is at an all-time high due to the present state of the economy. Yet there are fewer and fewer people to provide these vital services, due to flat funding of public agencies and the hiring freeze imposed by Governor Rendell. Our agencies have been flat funded since day one of this administration, so we’ve actually been paying for our own raises through the loss of staff for the last 6 years,” said Kathy Jellison, President of Local 668 in Harrisburg. Local 668 has a local office on East Lehigh Street in Bethlehem.

Ms. Jellison said the Rendell Administration has spent hundreds of millions of dollards on private contractors for work that can de done by state employees. “Mr. Rendell has ignored repeatedly suggestions for cost-cutting measures that would save taxpayer dollars by the Union,” she added.

“It is time this administration to open the books and disclose the huge amounts of taxpayer money being wasted on private contractors. Our members can do this work more efficiently, and at a lower cost to the taxpayers. There is no justification for these private contracts, when our members can do a better job and have more experience at providing the same services. We believe this is why vital human services have not been fully funded in Pennsylvania,” said Ms. Jellison.

The union pointed out as one example, a state contract with the University of Massachusetts to identify Medicare receipients that show payments are being made by the state under this contract that equal between $285 and over $500 for each recipient the University identifies. “Yet our members can do this exact same work for approximately 37 cents per recipient if given the proper tools,” said Ms. Jellison.

Ms. Jellison also pointed to over $300 million paid to Delotitte Consulting, a firm with ties to top officials in the Rendell Administration, for work done in the Department of Public Welfare, some of whcih was previously handled by state employees.

“Our agencies provide services needy families, the elderly and disabled, the unemployed, the mentally ill and mentally retarded, emergency services, youth and children. In addition, our members are trained to help prevent fraud and, as a result, have saved taxpayers an average of over $26 million annually in addition to awards for efficiency and delivery of Food Stamps, $4.6 million last year alone,” added Ms. Jellison.

She called upon Mr. Rendell to sit down with the SEIU Local 668 and other state unions and implement some of their suggestions to help the budget shortfall without cutting vital services.

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