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Jon Fleischman

Jon is the elected Vice Chairman, South of the California Republican Party.


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Today's Commentary on the News


Controller John Chiang - The Union Tool


by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

1-22-2009 6:04 am

It seems to me that Californians are getting what they asked for in State Controller John Chiang.  The contrast between selecting Chiang or his opponent, taxpayer advocate Tony Strickland, on the November 2006 ballot could not have been more stark.  While Strickland was openly supported by a cadre of pro-taxpayer organizations and leaders, the bulk of Chiang's support came from the left-wing of the Democrat Party, and most significantly, from public employee unions eager to have yet another "tool" in an important state constitutional office, ready to be put into play should the need arise.  (Below, left, is a photo of Chiang standing with all of his union supporters after being elected Controller.)

While the nation's economy is reeling, as the United States, and California, plow into a recession, public employee union bosses continue to be advocates for the notion that somehow public employees are "more privileged" that their counterparts in the private sector and should be immune from the laws of economics - you know, that when less money comes in, less money can go out?  Unfortunately, that "Golden Rule" applies in government just like it does in the private sector. 

At a time when state government is facing a huge financial shortfall, directly attributed, by the way, by an overspending orgy that was completely advocated by the state's public employee unions (I do not recall any unions calling for less spending on new government jobs, and instead calling for increasing state reserves to deal with potential shortfalls such as the one we are facing today), the unions are pouring proverbial fuel onto the fire by opposing any cuts in pay or benefits for their employees, hiding behind negotiated contracts.

Unfortunately, unlike the private sector, where market flexibility allows companies to adapt to economic conditions more freely - increasing activities during times of plenty, or downsizing during tougher times - the public sector has been so highly regulated by the tools of the public employee unions that have been propelled into the state legislature (over decades by the aggregate spending of countless tens of millions of dollars of public employee union dollars).  Now when state government so clearly needs to be able to cut its spending pretty dramatically to stay afloat, pro-union laws severely tie the hands of policy makers to do much about it.  In the private sector, a bankruptcy judge would open up labor agreements and cause them to be reworked to be reflective of the fiscal realities facing the affected company, with the idea that workers are not served if the company in question has to close its doors.  No such parallel exists for a government solution.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an executive order, a rather modest one I might add given the situation, that would mandate that every state worker take a couple of days off each month without pay, until the overspending-created financial mess is resolved.  Given the generous salaries and benefits that are received by state employees, and the challenges facing the state, this action was necessary, and hardly onerous. 

Of course, it took about a nano-second for public employee union leaders to start screaming as if the Governor had ordered amputations for all employees, and predictably two of the state's public employee unions, the California Association of Professional Scientists and the Professional Engineers in California Government, tromped into court and filed a lawsuit to try and stop the implementation of the Governor's Executive Order.

With that legal action still pending, the unions last week moved another chess-piece on their side into place, undoubtedly demanding that Controller John Chiang, who owes his political career to these unions, refuse to implement the furlough plan.  In today's Los Angeles Times, there is a story, California controller sides with unions in suit challenging Arnold Schwarzenegger, that details how the State Controller is thwarting the directive of Schwarzenegger.

I would certainly note that while Chiang is refusing to make even slight adjustments in public employee pay during this fiscal challenge, he had no trouble whatsoever in making a decision to stop state payments to taxpayers owed refunds from the state.

When one considers the drone-like pro-union movements of Chiang, one needs to look no further than his endorsements for office in 2006:

Association of California School Administrators
California Association of Highway Patrol Officers
California Association of Professional Employees, AFL-CIO
California Association of Professional Scientists
California Correctional Peace Officer Association (CCPOA)
California Faculty Association
California Federation of Teachers
California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO
California Professional Firefighters
California School Employees Association
California Teachers Association
CAUSE - Statewide Law Enforcement Association
CDF Firefighters
CWA Local 9400
Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC)
Huntington Beach Police Officers' Association
Laborers' International Union of North America, Pacific Southwest Region (LIUNA-PSW)
Los Angeles County Probation Officers Union
Los Angeles Police Protective League
Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs
National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO)
Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC)
Professional Engineers in California Government
Retired Public Employees Association of California
SEIU, Local 1000
State Coalition of Probation Organizations
Teamsters Joint Council 42
United Teachers Los Angeles 

It's probably significant to note that many of these unions sent political contributions to Chiang.  Just the two unions suing to overturn the Governor's Executive Order have sent him over $25,000.

While it is nice to say that Californians are getting what they should expect when they propel these union-drones into public office, that doesn't really do anything to solve our state's problems (created by the overspending of the same union-drones).  At some point, Californians will realize that there are consequences to pushing liberal Democrats into these important state offices.  But for now, we can only hope that the Governor prevails in court, and that the furloughs will be implemented.  While their projected savings make only a small dent in the overall shortfall facing state government, it is an important first step in acknowledging that reducing state spending involves not only cutting waste and reducing the role of state government, but it also means paring back the size and cost of the state's workforce.

I am sure that if you were to ask State Senator Strickland what he would have done in this situation, had he been elected Controller, you would have heard a much different response than the one being given by Chiang.  Strickland, undoubtedly, and with the proper respect and understanding that public employees have families too, would be implementing these furloughs, and would be playing a leading role in helping to solve the state's fiscal mess.  Too bad a majority of voters chose... the union candidate.

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