Sunday, December 02, 2018

Pension Non-Reform In Connecticut


To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical – Thomas Jefferson

California, of all places, is making a stab – too little, too late -- at reigning in its Gargantuan pension liabilities. Pension reformers in California recognize frankly that certain kinds of state workers should not be invested with benefits and pensions in excess of those available to all other workers in the private market place.

California’s unaffordable pension and salary burden can be ameliorated, reformers say, by dividing government employee benefits into three types: 1) benefits already earned for completed work, 2) those under pending contracts that relate to future work, and 3) those performing work not yet performed and not covered by contracts written in stone. Under a reform regime, different levels of protection will be afforded to the different groups. Level 1 workers will be afforded full protection; pension and salary arrangements for level 2 workers will be open to revision by the state; and level 3 workers will be afforded protections similar to those in the private market place.

The California reform effort recognizes that massive state worker salaries and pension debt, whatever its poison roots, is at bottom a spending rather than a revenue problem. Even if California’s massive state worker salaries and pension debt were to be liquidated tomorrow, future debt would reestablish itself in due course – because pension debt is a function of pension financing. If you curb spending, you reduce debt.

Connecticut is laboring (pun intended) under a California-like superstructure, and the weight of it may be reduced ONLY through reduction in spending -- NOT through further increases in state revenue.

Governor-in-waiting Ned Lamont cannot effectively solve Connecticut’s massive pension and liability debt by increasing taxes and diverting the superflux to pay off state union worker salary and pension debt without attacking the efficient cause of the debt, which is this: The cost of state employee union labor in Connecticut is too expensive. And unless that problem is attacked vigorously, it will recur. Attempting to fix the problem of a hole in the roof by putting a pot beneath it during rainy weather, without patching the hole, almost certainly will necessitate bigger pots in the future to accommodate the growing hole in the roof. The larger increased revenue pots simply relieve the householder of the necessity of fixing the hole.

There is a frenetic bustle surrounding Lamont’s accession to the governorship. Confabulations are arranged; studies are requested; gaggles of people are assembled to address Connecticut’s multifarious problems; business people are called upon to contribute their widows' mites to the discussion, redundant additions to a library shelf full of past unread studies, while the new Democrat progressive caucus froths “Let’s boil the rich and eat’em”; petitioners crown the doors of the Democrat controlled General Assembly begging for more liberal pieces of the usual governmental largess. All of this is very flattering to the getting and spending crown of politicians in Connecticut, generously applauded by Connecticut’s left of center media, who have, over the course of many years – “It’s our predecessors' fault!” – driven the state to the very edge of penury.

But there is only ONE problem – STOP SPENDING MONEY. FIX THE SPENDING HOLE IN THE ROOF. PATCH THE SPENDING HOLE IN THE BUCKET. CAULK THE OUTSIZED UNION-INFLUENCE HOLE IN THE SINKING SHIP.

Connecticut is not suffering a revenue or leadership shortage. It is suffering from a lack of will and courage among its present and past leaders.

Do not doubt that the stream is cold, running strong beneath treacherous layers of paper-thin ice. Just recently Connecticut unions, the state’s fourth branch of government devised a means of subverting a Supreme Court decision that, had its strictures been applied to state government, would have protected state workers who do not wish to join unions from paying union dues. Unions have grown fat on those dues for years, some of which is used as get-out-the-vote walk-around money to elect to office grateful politicians who have sold their souls to unions for a mess of political pottage.

Imagine the surprise of union members when, requesting retirement from their unions, they will be told that, according to a union card they signed in 2017, they could only resign when a contract expires between the union and the employer, or within 30 days of the member’s yearly anniversary. The Yankee Institute tells the sorry story: “’Per the membership card you are outside of the window period to cease your membership at this time,’ wrote AFSCME Director of Collective Bargaining Kevin Murphy to union members” longing to assert their Jeffersonian independence from their union’s process tyranny.


That window is exceedingly small, and the union’s outrageous process denial violates the efficacious and ameliorative spirit of the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME. Of course neither the reigning nor the presumptive Attorney General – George Jepsen, once the Chairmen of the state Democrat Party, or William Tong, Connecticut’s Attorney General elect – nor leaders in the Democrat dominated General Assembly, have enough non-partisan good will to render a formal decision on the constitutionality of AFSCME’s Supreme Court subversion. And Lamont, like his predecessor, will continue, many rightly suspect, to make Connecticut a sanctuary state from U.S. Supreme Court decisions.       


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