HARRISBURG – Legislation sponsored by Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) to shine more light on the finances of state-related universities was unanimously approved by the Senate State Government Committee today.
Senate Bill 488, which would bring greater transparency to the records of Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and Lincoln University, would mark the most significant reform to Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law since its inception in 2008.
“As we are reminded during budget season, our state-related universities receive over $500 million taxpayer dollars each year,” Mastriano said in urging his fellow committee members to support the measure. “We owe it to the taxpayers of our commonwealth to ensure visibility on how those taxpayer dollars are being used.”
The bill would significantly increase the amount of university personnel salary information that must be disclosed and provide access to budget and contract information in user-friendly, searchable online databases. Annual revenue and expenditure reports for each university will also be available for view by the public.
Mastriano noted that Pennsylvania is one of only three states in the nation that explicitly exempts state-related universities from open records provisions. For most of the nation, records of state-funded universities are presumed open or have been confirmed by courts to be open.
The measure would not affect existing exclusions related to privacy or similar legal protections required under current law.
“Senate Bill 488 will not undermine key and important elements of university operations or missions, but there is plenty of room for improvement in the level of transparency and accountability we can expect from these institutions,” he said.
CONTACT: Josh Herman