On first blush, the latest effort by Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislators to give public-employee unions access to public agencies to hold “orientation” seminars with new hires is an unfair special privilege not normally provided to private groups. It’s even more disturbing that the legislation authorizing such access is being rammed through the Legislature in a secretive manner without the full hearing and vetting process.
But critics of this brazen example of union muscle-flexing should take heed. It’s the latest reminder that even public-employee unions understand that the world is about to change. It’s only a matter of time before they lose a key to their enduring power: the current system by which public employees are forced to pay dues to their respective unions, even if they have no desire to give a large chunk of their paychecks to these unions.
Defenders of California High-Speed Rail often respond to critics by touting how the project provides high-paying jobs in the construction industry for disadvantaged residents of the San Joaquin Valley. It’s one thing to proclaim intentions, but another to achieve them. . . .But these programs and jobs have restrictions. The California High-Speed Rail Authority and other regional and local governments have policies (such as a Project Labor Agreement, aka “Community Benefits Agreement”) to ensure construction unions get a monopoly on recruitment, training, and dispatch of workers to high-speed rail jobs. Allegedly this would provide job opportunities for disadvantaged residents who would otherwise remain in poverty. Public records just obtained from the Fresno-based State Center Community College District reveal that unions did not offer apprenticeship opportunities to most of the 69 people who completed a union-affiliated pre-apprenticeship program funded by a state grant. Performance results for this program suggest that unions are reserving high-speed rail jobs for more favored individuals. Ironically, a few workers ended up getting jobs from local non-union contractors.
Because of those new standards and low investment returns, the state’s unfunded liabilities (including the University of California retirement system) soared by an astounding 22 percent since last year. But even this new estimate of $279 billion in liabilities is on the optimistic side. Some credible estimates pin California state and local governments’ pension liabilities at nearly $1 trillion, based on more realistic rate-of-return predictions.
As Calpensions explained, that $6 billion of borrowed money doubles the amount of general-fund dollars that the state is paying to deal with pension obligations. Meanwhile, as the state borrows money to pay that tab, it raises taxes to fund transportation. If Brown and the Legislature had trimmed pension costs, it would not have needed to raise gas taxes and the vehicle license fee. And the problem reverberates for local governments, too.
The latest example involves occupational-licensing reform. It’s one of those rare issues that should have widespread bipartisan support. Think tanks on the left and right agree that burdensome and costly rules for getting a license to perform certain jobs (barbers, makeup artists, locksmiths, speech pathologists, funeral directors, etc.) make it inordinately difficult to enter the job market, especially for people of modest means. . . An IJ study from 2010 found that California had the seventh-most burdensome licensing regulations in the nation. Our state requires licenses for 62 low- to moderate-income professions. Only a handful of those were the target of Senate Bill 247.
California school and community college districts are contributing $5.6 billion to CalSTRS and CalPERS during the current school year. These contributions will total $6.7 billion in the next school year, and, according to CPC’s analysis of actuarial projections, they will reach $11.3 billion in the 2022-2023 school year.