2020 Leg Session, Columnists, Gold Dome, Jon Caldara, Politics, Uncategorized

Caldara: A hefty price for unionized state workers

According to at least one analysis, Colorado has the second most restrictive coronavirus emergency restrictions in the nation, behind only the lock-down champ California.

Seems no matter how much we try to out command-and-control California with our own stifling regulations and state authoritarianism we just can’t top their repression.

Anyway, it doesn’t take too many moves to connect-the-dots as to why the Colorado state government is in budget trouble.

The shutdown of our state economy, ordered by our governor and echoed by local governments, limits the free association of people through their businesses and therefore tax revenue goes through the floor.

This is why the Democratic leadership at our State Capitol said their priority when they returned to their legislative session was only bills that were “fast, friendly and free.”

At least, they delivered on “fast.”

On “friendly,” well, that depends on who your friends are. And for this legislature, public sector unions are friends. Taxpayers, not so much.

So, in the shadow of the Black Lives Matter riots triggered by police abuses protected by police unions — riots that were vandalizing the very building they were in — the legislature passed House Bill 1153 to unionize state workers.

To state the obvious, unions are the opposite of free, as noted by no one ever saying, “Man that government in Illinois is saving taxpayers a friggin’ fortune!”

In fact, unionizing state workers is one of the most taxpayer-unfriendly things they could have done. As our grandkids will agree years from now, when Colorado looks like Chicago.

At least private-sector unions must ultimately face some type of market test. When they drive up the cost of a product or service, customers can choose a different provider.

You might remember when United Airlines was “union owned.” Pension costs skyrocketed until it drove the company into Chapter 11. Retired pilot friends of mine saw their retirements cut in half and then cut in half again. Do you think that will ever happen to government pensioners as the state’s pension fund goes belly-up? (And without massive taxpayer bailouts, it will.)

While you can fly a different airline when they jack up their prices, you can’t just choose another government. Well, I guess you can. Our Founders did. But it’s really bloody and centuries later they’ll tear down your statues.

If United Airlines had issues when “union owned,” wait until our state government is “union owned.”

Here’s what boggles my mind. HB-1153 requires us taxpayers to pay nearly $7 million a year and nearly 50 full-time workers just to handle this new collective bargaining system, a system that when up and running will drive the state’s personnel costs sky-high. The union isn’t paying for this administration. You are. Right now. During this COVID budget crisis.

Just for a point of contrast state Sen. Paul Lundeen had a bill to promote the state’s system to help connect kids in trouble to the life-saving mental health help they need. But his bill cost a piddly $50,000, thus violating the “free” part of leadership’s “fast, friendly and free” pledge. It got tabled. Paying off organized labor matters more than teen suicide.

As we’ve seen in police and teacher unions, government unions protect the worst of employees. And what protections do government workers need that they don’t already have?

Even without collective bargaining, is there a more secure job than working for the government?

Just look at the unemployment numbers during the COVID shutdown. According to the state’s own figures, March through April unemployment insurance claims were highest for the arts, entertainment and recreation sector, which filed 28% of all claims. Accommodation and food services was the next hardest hit industry. They filed 22.5% of all unemployment claims.

Coming in at the very bottom of all 18 industry classifications, at an impressive 0.5% of all unemployment claims filed, was, drumroll please, government workers!

While the governor was busy closing down the state, throwing hundreds of thousands of private-sector people into unemployment and forcing businesses into bankruptcy, his employees had job security and uninterrupted paychecks.

And that was without collective bargaining for state workers. What will it be when HB-1153 goes into effect?

It is cognitive dissonance to pass reforms of the issues police unions have created — and at the same time create more government unions.

Welcome to progressive control of Colorado’s government.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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