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.

Nevada ranks highest in U.S. in percentage of underemployed

Although Nevada’s official unemployment percentage continues to gradually decline, when you add in those working part-times for economic reasons and those who would like to work but have given up actively looking, Nevada’s underemployed ranks the highest in the nation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Nevada’s so-called U-6 figure was 13.9 percent in 2015 compared to a national figure of 10.4 percent, but both have sharply declined over the past five years.

Here are state-by-state figures:



Here is a Nevada comparison to U.S.:



Harry uses jobs numbers as excuse to bash GOP, as per usual

Harry Reid could use the morning dew as an excuse to bash Republicans.

On Thursday he put out a press release crowing about the number of jobs created in June — 223,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent.

“The country has experienced 64 consecutive months of private sector job growth. Though more needs to be done, there’s no doubt we’ve made progress. Senate Democrats want to build on that progress,” some staffer wrote before turning to the real topic at hand. “Republicans, who have now controlled Congress for six months, have other priorities.”

He then bashed Republicans for not reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank and claimed they may let the Highway Trust Fund expire.

“Americans deserve more from the GOP Congress than crisis, inaction and economic insecurity. Republicans have consistently shown that they are not interested in finding long-term solutions to critical problems,” Reid reportedly wailed.

Not so fast, Harry.

Yes, the BLS did report 223,000 jobs were created in June, but if Democrats can take credit for that, perhaps they also take blame for the fact the civilian labor force declined by 432,000 in June. Additionally, the April and May job growth estimates were revised down by 60,000 jobs. So what’s the likelihood of that 223,000 jobs holding up next month?


As for those 64 months of job growth, an Investor’s Business Daily editorial notes that during Obama’s presidency, the population grew by nearly 16 million, but the labor force grew by less than 3 million. “For every three Americans added to the working age population (16 and over), only around one new job has been created under Obama,” the editorialists note.

Construction worker in June. (Reuters photo)


Feds target the rest of Nevada for sage grouse protection

Sage grouse

The other shoe dropped on Nevada today.

A week ago the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to designate as threatened — under the terms of the Endangered Species Act — the bi-state greater sage grouse found along the northern California-Nevada border, supposedly a distinct population segment of about 5,000 remaining birds.

Today the Bureau of Land Management posted on the Federal Register its land use plan alternatives to protect sage grouse in 16 counties in Nevada — it appears to exclude only Clark County — and northeastern California. There are separate notices covering sage grouse habitat in other Western states. Links to the planning strategy are available here.

The public now has 90 days to comment.

There are six alternatives:

— Alternative A: No action — continues current management direction under existing planning documents. This includes all 11 field offices involved in the planning effort, plus the Humboldt and Toiyabe National Forests.

— Alternative B: Focuses on priority habitat areas that have the highest conservation value to maintaining or increasing sage grouse. Could limit rights-of-way and fluid mineral leasing.

— Alternative C: Reduces or eliminates many of the uses on public lands, including livestock grazing.

— Alternative D: Is a sub-regional alternative that allows local adjustments to protections and allow some ongoing land uses.

— Alternative E: Is the Nevada governor’s alternative and looks at state-proposed conservation strategies.

— Alternative F: Would reduce mineral development and rights-of-way and other uses.

These alternatives cover more than 13 million acres.

This could lead to restrictions on mining, grazing, farming, fences, oil and gas exploration, roads, power lines, wind turbines and solar panels, various forms of recreation and more — costing jobs and economic development.