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Stuck on stupid XXVI: Putting unions before taxpayers

Yes, Louisiana continues to be stuck on stupid, as evidenced by the failure of its House of Representatives to refuse a special carve-out favoring teacher unions that could put taxpayers on the hook for an undetermined sum of money.

HB 45 by Republican state Rep. Alan Seabaugh would have closed the privilege afforded to officers (and employees of one) of four teachers unions and other associations that allowed teachers on leave that took these jobs, whether on temporary or permanent leave, to have the state continue to pay its share of retirement, and also those who worked for certain federal health care clinics (only one in the state has it employees in the appropriate state retirement system), for those hired after Sep. 1, 2014. The logic was very simple: people not employed by the state should not be members of any retirement system to which the state and its taxpayers were responsible for contributions, both regular contributions and those to wipe out unfunded accrued liabilities.

A no-brainer if there ever was one, for by treating non-state employees as state employees it not only costs money, but makes taxpayers liable for indeterminate costs well into the future that has nothing to do with service delivery or policy choices. In the case of the two unions involved, this saves them tens of thousands of dollars a year that they then can turn around and use to influence government. The whole idea that taxpayers should subsidize a special interest that brings zero benefits to the state and could use its saved resources to try to use the state to create further advantages for itself should insult any free human being.

Yet, incredibly, based on arguments that charitably can be described as moronic, the measure was defeated. First, it was rendered somewhat less effective by Democrat state Rep. Sam Jones narrowly but successfully amending out the health clinics, his tactic being that the one in question voluntarily paid its contribution and any UAL on request (every year, the state to all agencies computes an additional contribution they must make because of the UAL).

But Seabaugh entirely mooted this red herring by noting that legally the state remained on the hook for these amounts, and that (despite Jones’ unwillingness to admit the truth of the matter) whenever the state makes a required (as a result of budget surpluses) or voluntary payment on the UAL, a very small portion of that pays for the clinic’s voluntary share. Unambiguously, taxpayers have subsidized a non-state entity in this regard. Yet Jones’ tactics of distraction of prattling on about what a great and necessary job these clinics did seemed to work.

Then the entire bill was defeated 44-50, after opponents kept the distraction going by claiming the bill was against teachers – no, only against private entities getting unjustified subsidization from taxpayers – and bringing up extraneous arguments about state subsidization of sports teams and an amendment to include charter school employees – except, of course, these are state employees already except for those charter operators specifically carve out who do not participate in a state system, and the insipidity temporarily halted with defeat of the amendment.

But it came back in force for the vote on the bill, which fell very nearly along partisan lines. The only Democrat voting for it was state Rep. Mike Danahay, but a number of Republicans, rather than siding with taxpayers, took up for the special interest – state Reps. Franklin Foil, Kenny Havard, Chris Hazel, Valerie Hodges, Frank Howard, Chris Leopold, Rogers Pope, Steve Pugh, and Tom Willmott. It also didn’t help that eight of the eleven absentees were Republicans, but had the three missing Democrats participated, they likely would have been enough to ensure with 53 votes defeat of the bill, so it’s these Republicans who put a privileged special interest ahead of people that were crucial to the bill’s defeat.

And it’s these obstructionists to good government that explains why Louisiana continues to make only incremental progress on issues such as a more stable budget, increased economic development, and improving education. As long as the attitude epitomized by these Republicans and Democrats on this vote persists that state government is there first and foremost to redistribute what individuals earn to favored constituencies, there never will be a serious commitment to making quality education a primary concern, encouraging private sector activity that maximizes the chances for all to have an opportunity to increase their economic standings, and to right-sizing government. These captives to union bosses still stubbornly clung to this antediluvian belief that serves only to retard progress.

The dollar amount of extra taxpayer largesse affected here just over the next year will not be large in the scheme of things (although another similar bill, HB 25 by Rep. Kirk Talbot remains alive for this year, but after this seems unlikely to move), but it’s the principle that these selfish representatives sold out the people for their ideological allies, an attitude inescapably bad for the state as a whole. The fewer of these cretins the better, and hopefully voters will consider that in their decision calculus for 2015.

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