Treasurer denounces $ 100 million ‘behind-the-scenes deal’ to offer state employees an incentive to get COVID-19 shots


Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity Wants Governor Tom Wolf to Ditch Her newly announced COVID-19 vaccination incentive program for the 72,000 employees under its jurisdiction.

The Democratic governor’s plan to get his employees to get vaccinated by the end of the year by offering them up to five days of paid leave [verification leave as the administration calls it], or their equivalent in the form of a lump sum payment if the leave is not taken by March 31, could cost taxpayers more than $ 100 million according to the Treasury estimate, she said.

“This move by Governor Wolf – taken behind the scenes completely outside the state’s budget process and away from public scrutiny – is fiscally irresponsible,” Garrity, a Republican, said in a statement shortly after the announcement of the incentive program. “As an independent tax officer charged with protecting the money that belongs to hard-working Pennsylvanians, I call on the governor to immediately abandon this ill-conceived project.”

A spokeswoman for Wolf objected to the treasurer’s description of the incitement.

“Calling it a ‘backdoor deal’ is confusing, completely inaccurate and does not help our continued efforts to encourage vaccinations and fight this pandemic,” said Beth Rementer, Wolf’s press secretary. “The Governor’s goal remains to ensure public health and safety by encouraging all eligible Pennsylvanians to be vaccinated and this includes encouraging Commonwealth employees through a vaccination incentive initiative. “

A Monday morning notice sent to employees who work under the jurisdiction of the Governor of Administration Secretary Michael Newsome said the vaccination incentive applies to both unionized employees (regardless of membership) and to unrepresented employees or managers.

“Every day, millions of people depend on essential programs and services provided by Commonwealth workers. As one of Pennsylvania’s largest employers, we want to make sure our workers have the resources they need to be safe and healthy and to be an example for other businesses to follow, ”Newsome said. .

But Garrity thinks the opposite.

“At a time when so many small businesses have been forced to shut down permanently or continue to struggle because of the pandemic, there are much better uses for these funds,” she said in a statement.

An administration official said the money to pay for this program is in agency budgets.

“No new funding is needed,” Rementer said.

Garrity evaluated the impact of the governor’s incentive if it were implemented at the Treasury and determined that the cost could exceed $ 500,000.

“It’s taxpayer money and it’s my job to manage it with care and prudence,” Garrity said. “As the head of an independent agency, I choose to protect taxpayers rather than join the governor’s agenda.”

Rementer reiterated that “no new funding is needed – the budgets of existing agencies will cover the costs.”

* This story has been updated to include comments from Beth Rementer, Press Secretary to Governor Tom Wolf.

Jan Murphy can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @JanMurphy.

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