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FlashReport Weblog on California Politics

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Edward Ring

Why Bankers and Public Sector Unions are Allies, not Enemies

Earlier this week former state senator Gloria Romero published a lengthy article in the San Diego Union-Tribune entitled “Fixing California: The union chokehold.” Reprinted with permission onUnionWatch, it describes how public sector unions, virtually unopposed, have undermined the effectiveness and overpriced the costs of government at all levels in California.

Romero, a liberal Democrat who served for seven years as senate majority leader in California’s state legislature, knows what she’s talking about. Her focus is on education, where the teachers unions have blocked meaningful reforms for years; protecting bad teachers from being terminated, promoting based on seniority instead of merit, taking over local school boards with hand-picked, union-financed candidates, attacking charter schools, prioritizing teacher compensation and job security over student achievement, and pushing a social agenda in front of academic fundamentals. Romero considers it a civil rights issue, since the negative impact of… Read More

Edward Ring

BART Strike Highlights More Than Just Compensation Issues

The four day BART strike that ended on July 5th provided ample evidence of how public sector union power can inflate wages – and expectations – far beyond what the rest of us may consider normal or fair. In a July 1st editorial entitled “Striking BART workers out of touch with financial reality,” the Contra Costa Times wrote:

“They’re already the top-paid transit system employees in the region and among the best in the nation. They also have free pensions, health care coverage for their entire family for just $92 a month and the same sweet medical insurance deal when they retire after just five years on the job.They work only 37½ hours a week. They can call in sick during the workweek and then volunteer for overtime shifts on their days off. The rules exacerbate out-of-control overtime that added in 2012 an average 19 percent to base pay for station agents and 33 percent for train operators.”

According to the San Jose Mercury, who has published BART payroll and benefits per employee as part of… Read More

Edward Ring

How Public Sector Unions Skew America’s Public Safety and National Security Agenda

It would be redundant to summarize recent revelations concerning just how big America’s national security state has become. Two reports, both written in the last two days, do a really good job: “The Making of a Global Security State,” by Tom Engelhardt, published by The Nation Institute, and “5 Alarming Things We Should Have Already Known About the NSA, Surveillance, and Privacy Before Ed Snowden,” by Brian Doherty, published by the Reason Foundation.

It is encouraging that both of these articles address the same topic and summon the same moral concerns, despite being published by top-tier think tanks – the Reason Foundation and the Nation Institute – that occupy opposite positions on the right/left continuum. What is discouraging is neither of these articles explore the connection between unionized government and the alarming police state trends they describe so thoroughly.

The centrality of patriotism and law-and-order priorities blinds many on the… Read More

Edward Ring

Why Public Sector Unions are “Special” Special Interests

California’s November 2012 statewide ballot included Prop. 32, the “Stop Special Interest Money Now” initiative. Among the provisions included in this campaign finance reform measure was the requirement that public sector unions obtain permission from each member prior to using a portion of their dues to support political campaigns.

It’s hard to precisely determine just how much public sector unions spent to immolate Prop. 32, since their campaign material often combined “Yes on 30” (new taxes), with “No on 32,” meaning resources were being directed at both initiative campaigns. Also, hard dollar campaign spending was only part of the effort; an army of union operatives were activated to defeat Prop. 32 – from public school teachers influencing students and parents to precinct walkers to labor friendly slate mailings. Overall, the unions probably spent about $100 million to defeat Prop. 32.

And their message was consistent: Prop. 32 targets “working families,” it attempts to “silence our voices,” it is “deceptive,” it provides “special exemptions” to the real… Read More

Edward Ring

Public Employee “Pay Transparency” Efforts Fall Short

Last week the California Public Policy Center released a compilation ofpublic employee compensation databases. Apart from the CPPC’s own studies that disclose and evaluate compensation for city workers inSan Jose,Anaheim,Costa Mesa, andIrvine, of May 2013, they found nine additional sources of information on California’s state and local government employee compensation, incorporating eleven databases. Here they are:

State Controller,employees of all California Cities and Counties Sacramento Bee,California State workersRead More

BOE Member George Runner

California’s Revenue Roller Coaster

The constitutional deadline is just two weeks away and the Governor and Legislature are busy negotiating the state’s next budget. With Democrats now holding enough seats in the Legislature to pass the budget without Republican input, we can expect a budget that reflects their priorities and grows the size of the government. Fortunately for them, budget revenues this year are exceeding expectations and multi-billion budget deficits appear to be a thing of the past—at least for now.

As you can see in the graph, California’s “roller… Read More

Edward Ring

Reforming Public Sector Unions and Public Sector Pensions is NOT “Anti-Worker”

An incoming email responding to last week’s commentary, “Los Angeles Police Union Attacks Messenger Rather Than Confront Pension Crisis” included the following statement:

“While you profess not to dislike public employees, it is clear that you disliking public employee unions. Interesting—so you might like a public employee or two individually, you just dislike when those individuals organize to work for better working conditions or pay. Which goes hat in hand with your desire to make public employee pension plans seem so expensive that they are terminated.”

This invites a response.

Our concerns about public employee unions are primarily based on the fundamental differences between unions in the public sector vs. unions in the private sector. There’s nothing wrong – in principle – when “individuals organize to work for better working conditions or pay.” But if those individuals work for the government, there are plenty of problems. We are seeing the result of this throughout California… Read More

Edward Ring

Los Angeles Police Union Attacks Messenger Rather Than Confront Pension Crisis

On May 17th the Los Angeles Police Protective Leagues “Board of Directors” authored a post on their LAPPL blog entitled “Inventing the headline number,”attacking the research and the motives of California Public Policy Center. Here’s how the post began:

“The playbook is familiar now—gin up a study on public pensions and government debt to be released to media outlets with a headline-grabbing number shrieking doom for public finances. The latest exhibit is a propaganda piece tossed out to the media by the anti-public employees group California Public Policy Center (CPPC) purposely inflates pension debt.”

Despite claiming the CPPC study was mere propaganda, the LAPPL failed to convincingly refute any of its findings, including the estimate that California’s state and local government debt totals between $648 billion and $1.1 trillion, depending primarily on what assumptions one uses to discount future pension obligations. The “discount rate” used to estimate a present value for future retirement payments – already earned… Read More

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