Caseload increase should equal funding increase
One of the few pending bills in Harrisburg with broad bipartisan support would lift the partial Open Records Law exemptions for the four state-affiliated universities - Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln.
Between 5 percent and 15 percent of each school's funding comes from the state government. All of that spending is accounted for through audits, but critics contend that the universities should be subject to the same level of disclosure as the 14 state-owned and state-operated universities - a position that has gained support due to he Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.
As legislative support grows for making the four universities subject to the Open Records Law, lawmakers also must recognize the likely impact that the expansion would have on the state Office of Open Records.
Since the law's passage in 2008, the number of cases handled by the office has grown each year, as more Pennsylvanians realize that the law finally favors disclosure, after decades of the old law fostering secrecy by governments at every level.
The office's caseload has more than doubled since it opened in January 2009. This year the office sought a budget increase from $1.37 million to $1.8 million, but Gov. Tom Corbett proposed an increase to just $1.41 million. But all of those proposals preceded the growing prospects of adding cases to the docket regarding four major universities.
The increase to $1.8 million was warranted on the merits before the bill to lift the university exemptions. There is no point in adding the universities to the law's jurisdiction if the Office of Open Records lacks the resources to handle the load. The Legislature should authorize the full increase.