Public employee unions should endure same sacrifices they demand of us

by Brendan Monaghan

Testimony before the Joint Committee on Ways and Means’ field hearing at PCC Sylvania in Portland on April 19, 2011

Remember the 90’s? When tax hikes and gargantuan spending increases were “for the kids” and our esteemed legislators made targeted budget cuts designed to inflict the most pain when the voters didn’t give them their way? School days were eliminated, teachers were laid off, and children were paraded around by the OEA for sympathy as they demanded more money. Those days are over now, as holding children hostage during state budget battles is out of fashion and passé. And why not? Oregon by now ranks near the top in per-student funding and at the bottom of actual student performance.

Today the usual suspects – many of whom you have already heard from tonight – have a new victim. Now they point the guns at Grandma’s head in the wheel chair as they come to you and demand more of what they believe is rightfully and exclusively the province of the unions. Their stories are all the same, warning of the intolerable conditions, steeped in Depression-era imagery, that will result if the hostage-takers don’t get their way. And of course, the reality of the situation is far different.

The Department of Human Services is currently a full quarter of the state budget, at $15 billion. It has grown by over $3.5 billion over the last two budget cycles, whereas Education, having outlived its usefulness as a political weapon, is stripped bare. DHS has also grown by 1,300 full-time employees in the 2009 cycle alone. This is the size of the entire State Police Department.

Meanwhile, 1,200 DHS positions are left unfilled (4,000 total within the state), yet these non-persons still get paid in these non-positions with real money they still receive from Salem. I just hope they’re also non-voters. Another example is the Oregon Project Independence, which serves a full 2,000 people, and is receiving “cuts.” If this program is vital, perhaps it can be fully funded by laying off those non-existent 1,200 people at DHS who still draw a salary. Or at least ask them to take a pay cut.

I know it’s not easy to make priorities, even for our Governor-for-Life, but perhaps this Austerity of Abominations would not be necessary if he was not so concerned with re-establishing his own legacy. It is his once and future dream to “fundamentally change the way our health care is delivered” and bring government-run healthcare to the state level. Never mind that a government-run system costs 2 to 3 times as much as a comparable private system. The difference is in the price of the infrastructure and bureaucrats needed to execute such a system.

Now we see the reasons behind all this union testimony. Ideally, these budget cuts wouldn’t be directed at Grandma and the kids, but would come out of the unions’ pocket books. They are, of course, more concerned with their own benefits, which include a 0% contribution to health care and pensions; not with the genuine concern for the well-being of the elderly, the disabled, and the children. The most vulnerable in our society should no longer be used as a tool for the unions to extract more money from government.  Public employee unions should have to endure the same sacrifices they demand of the rest of us.

 

Brendan is a graduate student at Portland State Universty, where he hosts the KPSU “Right Jab” radio program. Brendan is studying politcal science, and graduated from The Ohio State University in 2007, with a degree in political science.

 

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in State Budget | 44 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • AFSCME, SEIU, OEA

    Shut up. Give us more money. Don’t ask any questions. It’s for the children.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    Is there any evidence at all that public employee unions are not money extraction vote delivery mechanisms, that they at some point in time actually were about fighting the intolerable working conditions they always yammer on about?

    Can we please see one historic photo of poor government workers in a in a DMV sweatshop? Could we see any historic evidence whatsoever that indentured servitude or child labor was used to process permits down at the building department?

  • Bob Clark

    Good article, Brendan, concerning Oregon’s political gamemanship.

    Oregon’s mainstream politics is about building dependency on government for most Oregonians, and this requires building the government franchise. Notice not only DHS’ ballooning budget but also now the Oregon Health Authority is getting budgeted with some $2 billion (if I recall correctly) in new monies.

    The state government has a three pronged strategy of growing its franchise, and stomping out individual liberty and prosperity (what’s left of it) in the process. First, transfer government spending from education to the new expanding state health bureaucracies. Two, bank on local school districts being able to scalp local property tax payers of additional education funds so the education franchise doesn’t actually suffer much at all from the state education spending freeze. Three, obligate hospitals to serve those without means at well below cost, causing those with means to have to support those without means through ever higher priced private health insurance plans which also include lots of unnecessary state mandated coverages.

    The key to breaking Oregon mainstream politics is in undermining public employee unions’ domination of elections. This will eventually come because it seems almost undeniable the public education system is in steady decline. PPS for example graduates barely more than 50% of its students on time, despite having total teacher compensation in the $75k to $100k+ per year. Other states will get away from public employee union domination faster because they are either reducing collective bargaining or looking at campaign finance reform towards paring public employee unions’ ability to spend on elections.

  • Bob Clark

    Good article, Brendan, concerning Oregon’s political gamemanship.

    Oregon’s mainstream politics is about building dependency on government for most Oregonians, and this requires building the government franchise. Notice not only DHS’ ballooning budget but also now the Oregon Health Authority is getting budgeted with some $2 billion (if I recall correctly) in new monies.

    The state government has a three pronged strategy of growing its franchise, and stomping out individual liberty and prosperity (what’s left of it) in the process. First, transfer government spending from education to the new expanding state health bureaucracies. Two, bank on local school districts being able to scalp local property tax payers of additional education funds so the education franchise doesn’t actually suffer much at all from the state education spending freeze. Three, obligate hospitals to serve those without means at well below cost, causing those with means to have to support those without means through ever higher priced private health insurance plans which also include lots of unnecessary state mandated coverages.

    The key to breaking Oregon mainstream politics is in undermining public employee unions’ domination of elections. This will eventually come because it seems almost undeniable the public education system is in steady decline. PPS for example graduates barely more than 50% of its students on time, despite having total teacher compensation in the $75k to $100k+ per year. Other states will get away from public employee union domination faster because they are either reducing collective bargaining or looking at campaign finance reform towards paring public employee unions’ ability to spend on elections.

  • Valley person

    What tax hikes in the 1990s. What I recall are two large property tax CUTs that shifted the burden of funding schools from local taxpayers to the state, but failed to provide any dedicated revenue source.

  • Valley person

    What tax hikes in the 1990s. What I recall are two large property tax CUTs that shifted the burden of funding schools from local taxpayers to the state, but failed to provide any dedicated revenue source.

    • Conservatively Speaking

      Like Measures 5, 47, 50 and 8?
      VP, relax the grip on your governmentium dipstick and set your flaps for a wake up landing at Don McIntire Field.

      Government ‘SizedMore’ does matter – and lo, we cannot afford more kowtowing to the plethora of paradigms paraded by what’s Left of US, OEA, AFSCME and SEIU, e(a)t al.
      Period!

      Really, just the cost of all COLA’s, deeply steepens the slippery slope where fiscal conservatives are trying to dig in without gouging under-represented taxpayers further.

      By the way, an interesting read for anyone concerned about something that’s repleting itself in Oregon:

      https://www2.hernandotoday.com/content/2010/oct/17/ha-fdrs-warning-public-employee-unions-a-no-no/

    • Rob DeHarpport

      Valley,
      At least we didn’t property tax Grandma & Grandpa from their homes- that’s what the future held in the 1990s. The problem is the rate at which Oregon Government has grown- not a lack of revenue or taxes.

      • Valley person

        No, Grandma and grandpa are doing fine. They can defer their property tax bill until death they do part. They get SSI, they get medicare, they get medicaid. They get senior citizen discounts. I’m looking forward to joining them in a few short years.

        But back to my point. The writer claims we had tax hikes in the 1990s. What tax hikes?

        • Conservatively Speaking

          Automatic property (value) tax hikes! They were all the RAGE until Measures were taken to stem at least some of the irrational flow.

          • Valley person

            Property taxes were cut and capped. Again, what tax hikes in the 1990s?

          • Conservatively Speaking

            ‘Duped’ taxpayer bonds qualify, toot!, MAXimized arbitrariness of MetroNomically Poluted Potland vs taxpayer’s saying no…for opiners.

  • Emm3tt Hall

    Hmmm.. last I saw, quite a few teachers, and state employees, had to take work furloughs – doesn’t that count? It is a de facto pay cut even though their rate of pay remains the same.

  • Emm3tt Hall

    Hmmm.. last I saw, quite a few teachers, and state employees, had to take work furloughs – doesn’t that count? It is a de facto pay cut even though their rate of pay remains the same.

  • 3H

    Brendan – It would be nice to have a source for your +1300 employee growth for DHS in the 2009 DHS Budget cycle.

  • Joe

    These people have a contract. They have worked hard all their lives. They must get what they bargained for. It is as simple as that.

    • Rupert in Springfield

      They have a contract with the government. That’s a very different animal than a contract with anyone else. Don’t believe me? Go get a building permit sometime.

      • Ron Swaren

        I’m proud to be a union member and satisfied with what my union has done to procure health and retirement benefits. However, in my line of work, we are lucky to be working half of the time, given the impact of periodic economic recessions and other causes of unemployment….. in a field where jobs are already transitory. Moreover, there is little protection against being replaced by some employer’s family member who just happens to need money desperately. When you are forced to find a new employer every few months there is virtually no chance to advance, no matter how skilled you are. Additionally, without any state licensing, our field is overrun with unqualified people and fly by night business start ups.

        Government workers, on the other hand, are accomodated according to RULES. As long as you are responsible and understand those rules the employment system works fairly predictably. Government workers are less impacted by recession. They have a monopoly on their services. They do not bargain according to economic realities, but build upon a political machine, instead. There is a vast difference between the average unionized employee and government workers.

  • Ari

    DHS grew from 9100 employees in 2005-07 budget to 10,400 employees in the 2009-11 budget. So it was over two budget cycles, not one. But it is still ridiculous.

    https://community.allenalley.com/community/budget1113/dhs/depths

    • Rob DeHarpport

      As I was saying…. that’s just one agency.

    • Valley person

      How much did the elderly and poor population they serve grow over the same period? How much federal funding was handed down to help cover their costs?

  • just doing the math

    I know I am posting late again. I am beginning to see the validity of your remarks, though I typically vote more liberal (am actually thinking of re-registering as an Independant). One can only look at the horribly cheesy ads put out by the “we love our schools” campaign to see just how much our children are used as tools to get what they want; a huge tax increase. I agree that public employee unions need to step up to the plate and enter the 21st century as painful as that may be. We in the private sector can longer sustain an increasingly unsustainable system.

    • Valley person

      You are re-registering from liberal to independent? Interesting.

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