Newspaper column: State public employee unions will bust the budget

Ramirez cartoon

While Gov. Steve Sisolak has promised no new taxes in his proposed budget for the next two years, he also plans to light the fuse on a huge tax bomb in the future.

In his State of the State speech in Carson City before lawmakers he casually  tossed out that state public employees “should be empowered to bargain collectively in the years ahead.” Since 1969 local government workers in Nevada have been allowed to form unions and collectively bargain for pay and benefits, but   not so state government employees.

Sisolak doubled down during an interview at the Smith Center in Las Vegas with the editor of the news and commentary website The Nevada Independent, saying, state public workers generally are paid less than local government workers and discussion of collective bargaining rights for state workers is long overdue.

Sisolak said, “Our state employees should be treated in a fair and respectful manner. The fact that they haven’t had a raise in 10 years and the fact they don’t have the same working conditions that other jurisdictions had. I’m coming from a county that employees did have collective bargaining … they make a lot more money. … The pay is probably 30 to 40 percent less than any other governmental entity that exists. And to attract good people at those wages is simply not going to happen.”

After editor Jon Ralston pointed out that collective bargaining would cost the state a lot more tax money, the governor responded, “We’re going to invest in our people, Jon. That’s a good thing. I don’t think that’s a downside. We’re going to invest in the people who provide services to Nevada and we’re going to have to find the resources in order to make those accommodations.”

First of all, state workers were given 3 percent cost-of-living pay increases in each of the past two years.

For years local government pay in Nevada has exceeded those in both state government employ and in the private sector, due to collective bargaining. But according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures for the second quarter of 2018 the average weekly wage for private sector Nevadans was $908, while the local government worker was paid $1,049 and the state public employee averaged $1,097. By the way, the federal employees in Nevada averaged $1,406.

Back on Nevada Day this past year, the researchers at the Nevada Policy Research Institute crunched the Census data for 2017 and found that local government workers in Nevada were the fifth highest paid in the country compared to other local government employees, while Nevada’s private-sector workers ranked a distant 47th compared to private sector workers in other states.

“On a statewide basis, government pay and benefits cost taxpayers roughly $10 billion last year — which was equal to 80 percent of all tax revenue collected by every state and local government agency in Nevada,” noted NPRI policy director Robert Fellner. “Thus, in the event Nevada’s government pay gap continues its upward growth, the resulting tax hikes necessary to sustain such excess may become too great to bear.”

Fellner argued, “Because such outsized pay packages come at the expense of taxpayers who earn much less themselves, elected officials should consider the fairness and sustainability of continually caving in to government unions’ endless demands for even more.”

Imagine what the future will look like if state workers are allowed to form unions and bargain collectively.

Under Nevada’s collective bargaining law, if negotiations come to an impasse, an arbitrator is appointed to settle the dispute and the primary criteria for granting a union’s demands is whether the government entity has the ability to pay what is demanded. That determination is usually in favor of the union.

As we have noted in the past, none other than the icon of progressivism, Franklin D. Roosevelt, pointed out in a 1937 letter the problem with collective bargaining for public employees: “All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people …”

When the people are paid less than their servants, who is the master?

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

7 comments on “Newspaper column: State public employee unions will bust the budget

  1. Reziac says:

    Guess he hasn’t noticed why California’s budget future is a couple trillion in the hole.

    Or that thanks to being unionized, CA agencies can’t fire someone who routinely doesn’t show up for work.

    The real motivation is that the union noticed a pool of wages now big enough to be worth siphoning off union dues.

  2. Common Sense says:

    How do look yourself in the face and so this stuff? I don’t know if you demean yourself or your audience more by trying to compare what an average state worker makes with what an average employed person in the state makes without providing any other information that might be relevant.

    Or maybe how about some information about the number of state workers per capita in this state relative to other states?

    Go figure Nevada is practically last in every category used to measure positive things about a state that involve services provided by state workers; you get what you pay for.

    So yeah, keep paying judges, teachers, prosecutors, law enforcement, and all those other state workers less money then, when you get what you pay,moping the finger at how horrible government services and and demand we cut their budgets so we can reduce their salaries even more and get worse in every way compared to how we are now.

    I mean, if this doesn’t incentivize “good people” to get involved in good governance what will right?


  3. Rincon says:

    How are the rich going to keep getting richer when, dare I say it, unions are allowed to bargain? We need to squash them, squash them, I say, until the working stiffs have no choice but to supplicate with all due humility to the altars of unbridled capitalism.

  4. The topic is public employee unions.

  5. Rincon says:

    Yeah, I know. But capitalism does not exist in a vacuum. There must be a government in almost all cases. In this case, Conservatives wish our government to emulate private enterprise as closely as possible; therefore, no unions, or at least collective bargaining, allowed. Conservatives are all about the rights of individuals, except for those who work for an employer.

  6. Steve says:

    Oh great, now FDR is being called “conservative”

    Today’s liberal has exactly zero idea what it means to be liberal.

  7. […] Nevada: State public employee unions will bust the budget While Gov. Steve Sisolak has promised no new taxes in his proposed budget for the next two years, he also plans to light the fuse on a huge tax bomb in the future. […]

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