Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Connecticut’s Corruption Loop

Lamont, Gunn and Luciano
A recent media availability during which Governor Ned Lamont unveiled his new Transportation Plan, several times revised, was marred, but not irreparably so, by Hilary Gunn, who appeared at the event standing behind Lamont and Connecticut AFL-CIO union boss President Sal Luciano wearing a knitted yellow Phrygian or Liberty Cap embroidered with bold, all too visible letters that read – “No Tolls” in revolutionary red letters.

Luciano’s presence at the press conference was not inadvertent. He was there to commend Lamont’s new transportation improvement plan on behalf of some union workers who stood to benefit by it – monetarily.

“We have been assured by the Lamont administration,” Luciano said, “that this work will be built using project labor agreements. That’s important because it will protect taxpayers by eliminating costly delays due to labor conflicts or a shortage of skilled workers.” And, not incidentally, the project labor agreements will enrich a union membership largely responsible for electing to high office Democrat politicians who, like Lamont, are eager to shower with benefices state workers whose political contributions and campaign activities have hoisted them into office.

“Project labor agreements,” according to the Yankee Institute, “are collective bargaining agreements with a contractor that require the contractor to pay union wages and abide by union rules when completing a specific construction project, essentially guaranteeing the contractor will have to use union labor.”

Translated into proletarian-speak, project labor agreements inflate the cost of labor for transportation improvement jobs among non-union contractors so that their labor cost payout will be equal to the payout of union labor. More precisely, Project labor agreements effectively unionize non-unionized organizations and prevent cost savings that would occur if private contractors were not hobbled by such agreements.

That is one of the reasons Gunn showed up at the event in her Liberty Cap bearing the words “No Tolls.” She and other grass roots organizers would rather the state save money in labor costs. And the savings – no one has yet toted them up – will be worth far more than those touted by Luciano when “costly delays due to labor conflicts or a shortage of skilled workers” are eliminated. Luciano does not pause to reflect whether “costly delays due to labor conflicts” might be eliminated by eliminating court enforced labor agreements.

Lamont and Luciano want taxpayers to pay more in labor costs because both parties favoring tolls and project labor agreements – elected progressive Democrats and unions – stand to gain through the mutually beneficial transaction. Unions are protected from a fair competition that might reduce labor costs, and Democrat government officials, who tend to treat public employee unions more or less as a fourth branch of state government, reap rewards in campaign cash and boots-on-the-ground campaign assistance.

Is this mutually beneficial arrangement a quid pro quo in disguise? The Latin phrase means “something for something.” There is nothing inherently evil or immoral about quid pro quos. An honorable quid pro quo is involved in any market purchase. When you pay your mortgage and the bank that owns the mortgage permits you the illusion that you are the owner of the house, Mr. Quid and Mr. Quo are both satisfied. However, any plowshare may be beaten into a sword. Just as there are honorable and crooked politicians, so there are honorable and crooked quid pro quos. And the worst quid pro quo is the legal and crooked quid pro quo, the one written in devil’s ink.

There are, here and there, glimmers of hope that the voting public will no longer tolerate business as usual. Gunn is by no means alone. In the Journal Inquirer, columnist Chris Powell calls for significant reforms: “Tolls will let state government continue to overlook its mistaken and expensive policies with education, welfare, and government employees, where ever more spending fails to improve learning, worsens the dependence of the unskilled, and makes public administration less efficient and accountable. Connecticut needs profound reform in these respects, and enacting tolls will only reduce the pressure on elected officials to choose the public interest over special interests.”

Speaking directly to project labor agreements, president of the Connecticut Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors Chris Fryxell notes, “To announce right out of the gate that all this work is going to union contractors is offensive… We’re talking about a lot of taxpayer money… Everyone should compete on a level playing field. Competition reduces costs for taxpayers.”

Those who can bring about cost-saving reforms in Connecticut are willing, but the political flesh is weak. Democrats in the General Assembly are becoming more, not less, the servants of special interest groups that have, over a period of years in Connecticut, captured the democratic citadel. Unless they are turned aside, we in Connecticut can only look forward to a future blighted by increasing taxes and spending – at which point the only choice open to the middle class in the state will be to vote with their feet.

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