Posts Tagged unions

Government employee pay increasing faster than incomes of Californians

 Sacramento — At an event tonight hosted by the San Joaquin Taxpayers Association in Stockton — the largest municipality to declare bankruptcy in the United States due to overly generous government employee compensation — the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation and the Center for Government Analysis will jointly release a new study that reveals alarming compensation trends for State workers from 2005 to 2010.

The study, conducted by the Center for Government Analysis (CGA), found that total expenditures by the State of California to finance salaries and pension benefits for State workers grew three times as fast as the per capita personal income of all Californians.

Among other findings is the fact that estimated expenditures to pension systems have increased more than 4½ times.

“Given the importance of the topic of California’s finances, the State’s expenditures (and the lack of disclosure regarding them) further erodes public confidence in our State government,” said Steven Frates, President of CGA.

The research also revealed that had the state allowed State worker salaries and benefits to increase at the same rate as the general per capita income rate for the rest of Californians, the State could have saved more than $2.1 billion — enough to increase the number of California teachers by 8.2%, adding nearly 25,000 teachers. If the State had kept the State worker workforce from growing, they would have saved even more — nearly $3 billion.

“The findings in this study completely belie the excuses from Sacramento politicians that they need more money in state coffers,” said Jon Coupal, Chairman of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation. “A rapidly escalating share of taxpayer dollars that is being spent in Sacramento today is going toward bloated salaries and pensions, not teachers and schools.”

The research was supported by a grant from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation. For a copy of the study, click here.


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Unions Dominate California Ballot Propositions

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Unions representing public workers in California have remarkable success achieving their desired outcomes for California ballot propositions—call it success by defeat. In some instances unions have outspent adversaries in California’s initiative process 8 to 1. This may come as no shock for those of us who live in the Golden State especially considering the well-entrenched power of unions here, but the rate of success unions have had in the initiative process is not only surprising, but staggering.

Reviewing more than 30 years of data, a new study conducted by Daniel DiSalvo for the Manhattan Institute found that since 1980, public employee unions have been successful in defeating 75 percent of the ballot initiatives they opposed and have won in 50 percent of the initiatives they supported. That means unions possess an uncanny record when it comes to playing defense, “using initiative campaigns to block proposals that threaten their interests.” And when on offense they get what they want half of the time, a record that would make any special interest group in the country envious.

The Manhattan Institute study release is well timed as public employee unions in California have invested heavily in the passage of Prop 30, Governor Jerry Brown’s initiative that would increase the state’s sales tax and also the state income tax for some earners. Conversely, unions are actively opposing Prop 32, which would stop unions and corporations from making direct contributions to legislators and change the way they would collect money for political spending.

As former Democratic Senator Gloria Romero reminded me recently, unions effectively run the state capitol and legislature but this new Manhattan Institute study illustrates how unions have great influence over the state’s electorate. “The direct-democracy process—in which any person or group can place a question before the electorate, if they can collect enough signatures in support of it—plays to the political strengths of public-sector unions,” DiSalvo writes in the study.

“Union members are easy to mobilize for signature drives and get-out-the-vote operations” and they “have a steady and stable revenue stream for political activism, as monies are deducted directly from members’ paychecks by government and funneled into union coffers,” DiSalvo adds. “Their members tend to have higher levels of education than most citizens, which correlates with more electoral participation. In low-turnout contests, which ballot measures can be, union members can constitute a higher proportion of the electorate. And unlike businesses and other stakeholders, public-sector unions focus on a few core issues, thus concentrating their firepower.”

And in the highest stake ballot initiatives, particularly over education issues, unions have even more influence. As DiSalvo noted, “whenever a proposal was especially important to the unions, such that they pulled out all the stops in their campaign efforts, they almost always won. In these big battles, public-employee unions often outspend and out-mobilize their opponents by huge margins.”

“For example, among the unions’ victories was Proposition 98 in 1988, which mandated that 40 percent of the state’s general fund be spent annually on K–12 education and community colleges,” according to the Manhattan Institute report.  “That measure has greatly constricted the state’s fiscal flexibility, reduced efficiency in public education, and helped make California’s teachers the most expensive in the country. In opposition, the teachers’ unions twice defeated proposals for school vouchers and other proposals to bring more accountability to the state’s public schools.”

What have the outcomes been of union influence in ballot propositions? Higher taxes and little reform, according to DiSalvo. “[P]ublic-sector unions have played a big role in pushing for higher taxes and thwarting reform—all in an effort to maintain a status quo that favors their needs at the expense of the public interest.”

By simply surveying the bills passed and killed in Sacramento, union influence is apparent. This new study by the Manhattan Institute shows how such influence also carries over to the state’s initiative and referendum process.

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