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Incremental central control
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Heritage Foundation points to a law which the Senate passed yesterday which Heritage sarcastically characterizes as the "Municipal Government Bankruptcy Enhancement Act":
Yesterday the Senate voted to end debate on a bill that requires police officers, firefighters and other first responders across the nation to submit to collectively bargaining. Before the Senate votes on final passage of the bill later this week, lawmakers really ought to take a very close look at a city council vote in the sleepy California town of Vallejo last week.

The Vallejo City Council voted May 6 to become the largest city to ever declare bankruptcy in California. The cause of Vallejo’s demise? Contracts with fire and police unions account for 74% of the city’s $80 million budget. Why did the city sign such ridiculous contracts? Because public sector unions are a controlling force in the Democratic Party and Democrats dominate Vallejo’s government. Therefore, when it came time to for the city to negotiate salaries with its unions, the Democrats were represented, the unions were represented, but the city’s taxpayers were not.
The taxpayers are rarely represented in negotiations such as this. And, of course, requiring all municipalities to obey such a law is a Democratic dream come true. A monopoly for the unions backed by the might of the government.

Couple this very expensive requirement with other commitments municipalities have and Vallejo may only be the first of many municipal bankruptcies: reports: “The U.S. will probably see more municipal bankruptcies in the years ahead as local governments deal with the mountains of pension and retiree benefits they’ve promised but never funded.” The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Moore documented many of these nationwide unfunded liabilities earlier this year including: one of every three Los Angeles County school system dollars goes to teacher requirement costs; the 10 largest Chicago-area cities face a combined $18.7 billion in unfunded pension liabilities; Philadelphia was forced to issue a $4.5 billion bond to cover unfunded pension liabilities for 33,000 retirees.
Then, of course, there's the public safety issue of striking police and firefighters:
Liberals in Congress defend their new bill for police officers, firefighters and other first responders by pointing to language that forbids public safety unions from striking. But as the Wall Street Journal notes, similar strike bans in state laws never work: “Union officials call strikes anyway, then negotiate amnesty as a condition of ending the work-stoppage. This is what happened in 2005 when New York transit workers broke the law by going on strike and shutting down the city. They paid no price and still got their raise.”
In fact, the only workers I know of who paid with their jobs when they struck illegally were the air traffic controllers. And you can bet your bottom dollar (if you can manage to keep it from being taxed away from you) that nothing like that would happen in a Democratic administration.

Heritage analyst James Sherk points out:
A union’s monopoly over bargaining makes it a cartel that prevents employers from hiring workers who would do the same job for less than union wages. ... Without providing financing for the mandate, the act will force these governments to either cut services or raise taxes.
Or both.

This is precisely the type of collectivist incrementalism you can expect from a Democratic legislature and/or a Democratic administration. Just imagine what will happen if the Democrats achieve a true majority in the Senate and also take the White House.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

If the rationalization of collective bargaining is that business owners are "evil, greedy and too powerful," then does the existence of government employee unions mean that government is also "evil, greedy and too powerful"?

Just wondering.

P.S. In New York, unionized government employees are forbidden by state law (the Taylor Act) from striking. (The Act also provides other terms and conditions regarding government employee unions and the government units that employ them.)

If this federal law passes, expect state-on-federal pre-emption litigation.
Written By: KipEsquire
Yes, the issue of pay and benefits for unionized government workers needs to be scrutinized. But what really gets my dander up is stories like this. But this is unconscionable. Not only did he continue to draw pay but:
Not only did Idland continue drawing his salary, it actually increased while he was in jail. For the 2004 portion of his incarceration, he drew $3,898 per month. In January 2005, it went up to $4,132 per month, which lasted through June. In July, it increased again, this time to $4,289 per month. In September, it increased once more, and he drew $4,426 that month. He stopped drawing pay at the end of October, in accordance with an agreement reached when he resigned (after entering a plea deal, no less). All told, Idland earned approximately $70,000 while sitting in jail.
That’s correct. He continued to draw merit increases. And while the Washington state taxpayers are paying his salary they are also paying the $2 million to the troopers victims.
As a former correctional officer in Alaska I can tell you that it’s not that uncommon.
Written By: tom scott
URL: http://
Just imagine what will happen if the Democrats achieve a true majority in the Senate and also take the White House.

The press will hold their feet to the fire, right?


Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
What business does the federal govt have mandating collective bargaining for municipalities?! Are there any adults left in DC?

Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
All right, strike that, they aren’t mandating anything, just making it permissible to organize. Nevertheless, it’s still not any business of the federal government.

Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
Heh. All this talk of municipalities going bankrupt via inflated pensions and exorbitant contracts...yet no mention of San Diego!?! That’s always my favorite for the mind-numbing and blatant corruption endemic to municipal governments.

Isn’t that from your neck of the woods? Someone should follow up on that and see where things have gone the past couple years.
Written By: ck
URL: http://
And of course, we’ll see Willis and MK decry this situation, huh?

Written By: Bithead
Michigan has about three dozen municipal govts on the watch list (for possible bankruptcy) and in every single case you can point to the wages and benefits of public employees as the driving factor. Plus, in Pontiac, (aside from still paying around 1.5M for upkeep on the Silverdome, which is not longer being used for much of anything) the fire department managed to get, in the ’70s, an amendment to the city charter requiring staffing levels which are now unsupportable. Rather than make adjustments, the firefighters balked, and as a result the police department got reduced by more than 1/3 *AND* the city is going bankrupt.

Public employees unions are a bad, bad idea. Inevitably they lead to irresponsible budgeting that drives cities to much higher taxes and/or eventual bankruptcy.
Written By: JorgXMcKie
URL: http://
Apparently my comment regarding got swept in the SPAM sweep on this thread since it was a link to an article on the current state of hte pension mess in San Diego:
Written By: BillS
Of course, if the police department in your municipality does go on strike, you can always defend yourself using your Second Amendment ri—oops, sorry DC, didn’t see you there...

Written By: Steve
URL: http://

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