Pension reform would be a better bet – San Bernardino County Sun

This year’s state budget negotiations already had the feel of a hostage situation.

You know that scene in Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles” where the sheriff holds a gun to his own head and threatens to shoot if his tormentors don’t let him go?

Sort of like that, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democrats in the Legislature are threatening to shoot California in its head – its public schools, community colleges and universities – if the voters don’t agree to raise taxes.

The budget assumes that Brown’s tax initiative will pass in November and counts the revenue that would result, $8.5 billion, on the plus-side of the state ledger; if the tax hike fails, that much money will have to come off the spending side, some of it from the Cal State University and University of California systems and most of it from K-12 schools and community colleges.

Then this week Democrats in the Legislature went even further to give voters a stark choice. Their new plan is to give the CSU and UC systems an extra $125 million each next summer if they don’t raise tuition this fall and if Brown’s tax hike is approved by voters.

The $125 million for CSU comes close to matching what the system expects to gain from a tuition hike already in place for this fall. CSU officials say it’s not clear how they could go about refunding that hike even if they wanted to. Meanwhile, UC trustees were expected to approve a fall tuition hike soon.

If Brown’s tax hike doesn’t

pass in November, there would be trigger cuts of $250 million each for CSU and UC. Worse, there would be trigger cuts of $5.4 billion for community colleges and for K-12 schools, which would have to shorten their instruction year.

The tuition freeze plan puts the public universities in a gambling situation. If CSU cancels its tuition hike somehow and Brown’s tax hike is passed, the system will be in decent shape. If the tuition hike is canceled but the tax hike fails, CSU loses $250 million in trigger cuts plus the $130 million it would have received from the tuition hike. If CSU leaves its tuition hike in place, it angers students and parents by getting the money from them instead of (possibly) from the state, and could still suffer the trigger cuts.

Do you feel lucky? Well, do you?

Democrats like Assemblywoman Wilmer Amina Carter say they’re optimistic that the tax hikes will pass, while Republicans – including Assemblymen Mike Morrell and Tim Donnelly – say not a chance.

We’re in the middle: We say the tax hike has a good shot at passing if and only if Democrats in the Legislature pass the pension reform measures that Brown has proposed and that Republicans have backed. That would convince a lot of voters that state government was serious about making real cuts other than to schools and the poor, and make those voters feel that they could tax themselves to help the schools without being chumps for continuing to pay for lavish public retirements.

That would be a better gambit for legislative Democrats if they want the tax hike to have a chance of succeeding. Pass pension reforms, and forget about making the CSU and UC systems gamble on their futures.

via Pension reform would be a better bet – San Bernardino County Sun.

Americans for Prosperity group to discuss pension reform in Lemont tonight – Darien, IL – Darien Suburban Life

Lemont, IL —

The Americans for Prosperity organization will be hosting its first meeting for its “Get the Job Done” initiative tonight at the Lemont Township Community Center, 16300 Alba St.

AFP is a national grassroots organization fighting for economic freedom, according to a release. Their “Get the Job Done” initiative is calling on the General Assembly to suspend their summer vacation and pass the pension reform.

There is no more pressing fiscal issue for Illinois’ leaders than reforming the state’s underfunded pension system, said David From, AFP Illinois State Director.

“Their inaction costs taxpayers $12.6 million per day in additional obligations, yet our legislature is on summer break,” From said in a press release. “We’re meeting (tonight) to explain the pension crisis, talk about solutions and urge our leaders to get the job done.”

The meeting will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. tonight.

via Americans for Prosperity group to discuss pension reform in Lemont tonight – Darien, IL – Darien Suburban Life.

San Diego Pension Reform Piques Interest Of State Supreme Court |

SAN DIEGO — California’s Supreme Court wants more information on the dispute over San Diego’s 401(k) retirement initiative.

City unions had filed a compliant with the state’s Public Employment Relations Board, or PERB, alleging city leaders acted improperly in supporting the measure, making it illegal. The issue made its way to Fourth District Court of Appeal, which ordered the city to go through PERB’s administrative process. Proponents of the measure appealed that decision and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the state Supreme Court has now asked the unions and PERB for answers to the appeal.

“Requiring an answer is normally a prelude for hearing the matter,” he said. “And to us it’s a very good sign that we have the California Supreme Court’s attention on this.”

Goldsmith said if the court does hear the issue it could do a number of things, including sending it back to the appeals court, taking the matter on directly, or ordering San Diego to go through the PERB process.

The matter is on an expedited timeline and information is due to the court by July 3. The PERB administrative process is scheduled to begin July 17.

via San Diego Pension Reform Piques Interest Of State Supreme Court |

Tubby Smith Contract: Gophers To Extend Basketball Coach For 3 More Years – SB Nation Minnesota

The Minnesota Golden Gophers have been rumored to be negotiating a new contract with Tubby Smith for quite awhile, but the process seems to be taking a very long time. It must be closer to completion now, however, because recent reports indicate that the men’s basketball coach will be extended for three seasons.

The new deal was being held up as Minnesota went through the hiring process of its new Athletic Director, but Charley Walters reports that things should be done fairly soon.

Tubby Smith’s long-anticipated University of Minnesota men’s basketball contract extension will be for three years with a relatively small salary increase. But his overall compensation with the new deal will depend primarily on incentive bonuses based on performance.

It sounds like the salary hasn’t been an issue, but rather what the contract buyout is going to cost. Hopefully it doesn’t come down to that.

Editor’s note:  Minnesota’s highest paid public employee.

via Tubby Smith Contract: Gophers To Extend Basketball Coach For 3 More Years – SB Nation Minnesota.


The Last Gasps of Public-Sector Unionism

Democrats are settling into a hybrid state of denial, anger, and depression in the aftermath of the Wisconsin recall election, where Scott Walker handed them an historic and embarrassing defeat.

This was clearly another vote against vampiric public-sector unionism in Wisconsin and the collective bargaining that has grifted copious and unwavering entitlement funding from taxpayers.  But Democrats are in complete denial of that fact.  They are convinced that allowing union bosses to extort money by holding public officials hostage just makes sense in a workers’ rights kind of way.  And since Democrats also believe themselves to be the smartest guys in the room, they have no doubt that Americans would agree with them if it weren’t for the rich fat cats stuffing money into Walker’s campaign chest, allowing for a media onslaught of anti-union sentiment.

Of course, the GOP financial advantage has been dishonestly inflated, often touted by liberal pundits as somewhere in the range of 7-to-1.  This figure, however, does not account for unions’ contribution to the campaign, which ring to the tune of about $10 million.  Cameron Joseph at The Hill is nice enough to offer the more reasonable spending discrepancy, reflecting a GOP advantage of roughly 2 to 1.

Doesn’t quite give the same picture of shadowy corporate interests swallowing the little man, does it?  After all, Barack Obama outspent John McCain at roughly 2.5 to 1 in 2008.  And the same Democrats now crying foul find no fault in the Obama campaign’s propaganda blitzkrieg in the weeks leading to the 2008 election — an assault that dwarfed McCain’s at a spending level of 5 to 1.

This omission of union contributions in considering the logistics of the Wisconsin race is an act of pure deceit, but Americans aren’t falling for the ruse.  Public unions have notoriously deep pockets and an organizational infrastructure built upon campaigning, and it is an unspoken truth understood on both sides of the ideological divide that their financial clout and efforts are singularly directed to benefit their own symbiotic existence with Democrats.  And the left now seems keenly aware that if unions do not have the ability to collectively bargain with politicians, and if they are unable to demand that all public workers finance union efforts, public unions will go the way of the dodo — and with them, the grandiose collectivist ambition of the Democratic Party.

And they are right.  But through mental gymnastics and blind hope, they fail to recognize the real reason why this is all happening to them.  They cling to this notion that big-money corporations and their surrogates in the GOP have poisoned the information well, infecting the public with anti-union fervor when they would otherwise be supportive of the union cause.  But the truth is much, much simpler.

Collective bargaining and the power it brings public unions is so fundamentally abhorrent a prospect that even the godfather of progressivism himself, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had this to say of the matter in 1937:

All Government employees should realize that the prospect of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.  It has distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purpose 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, who speak by laws enacted by their representatives in Congress.  Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.

Ironically, life was breathed into FDR’s fears by his own political progeny, who regularly invoke his name.  And now, dreaded collective bargaining has been inseparably tied to the fate of Roosevelt’s party.

It is now clear that FDR’s warning was prescient to the point of being eerie.  Public unions have become an organ of a political party, directing public policy by negotiating with administrative officials that are incapable of fully representing the citizenry that subsidizes their existence.  And by way of collective bargaining and the resulting collusion with corrupt politicians, they have pilfered the public treasuries to increase their wealth and influence.

FDR feared the very idea of collective bargaining and public union power, and he was opposed to it in principle.  So why is it so hard for the left to believe that after witnessing five decades of the result, the American public would not fear it also and be opposed to its practice?

The truth that Democrats understandably repress is that Scott Walker was elected to dismantle overgrown public unions the first time around.  And that request was even more emphatic the second time around, after having seen the results of Walker’s policy reform.  What Wisconsin has witnessed since 2010, according to Charles Krauthammer, is “a huge budget deficit closed without raising taxes, significant school-district savings from ending cozy insider health-insurance contracts, and modest growth in jobs.”

But “the real threat,” Krauthammer continues, “is that the new law ended automatic collection of union dues.”  As Rachel Maddow laments, “Democrats have no way to compete in terms of big outside money.”  Heretofore, the “big inside money” of the labor unions was Democrats’ answer to that.  The unions’ “real, practical effect,” according to Maddow, is that they “had been big supporters of Democratic candidates and Democratic causes and had had a lot to do with the Democratic ground game.”  Clearly, automatic dues collection, a result of collective bargaining, is nothing more than a mandate that all public workers donate to Democratic politicians’ war chests.  Since Wisconsin’s new law has given public workers a choice, public unions have “experienced a dramatic drop in membership — by more than half for the second biggest union,” dealing a decisive blow to labor unions and, by proxy, the Democratic Party.

So it stands to reason that the choice for Wisconsinites in the recall election was painfully clear to make.  On one path, they could have chosen to preserve their heritage of five decades as ballast for Big Labor and the Democratic Party.  One the other path, they could have renounced that heritage and the failure it has wrought by choosing success and freedom. They reasonably opted for the latter.

Wisconsin’s recall election proves that American citizens now find the institution of a powerful public union an anathema, not a boon.  That is why Democrats have come unhinged and now claim that Republicans stole the election.  Wisconsin signals the last gasps of an inherently diseased, and now dying, entity.

Read more:

Columbus City Council Approves Major Pension Reform – WLTZ 38 | Columbus Georgia Regional News & Community

The Columbus City Council unanimously approved sweeping pension reform during a Tuesday evening Council session. While many cities have found themselves in court or locked in controversy over the volatile issue of pension reform, Columbus, Georgia approved their comprehensive reform with very little fanfare or notice. “I think the extensive communication efforts we used during the pension reform process to keep the employees, the Councilors and the citizens informed and engaged were critical to our success. The employees and leaders knew we had issues that had to be addressed. In the best of Columbus tradition, we came together and got it done,” stated Mayor Teresa Tomlinson who initiated the effort last summer.

The reform to the city’s $266 million pension plan involves current city employees contributing 2% of their pay toward their pension plan instead of the city assuming that contribution payment for them. Columbus General Government and Public Safety employees have not contributed toward their pension plan for some 25 years. The reform also provides that new employees hired on or after July 1, 2012 will contribute 6% toward their pension benefit. Next fiscal year the reform provides that those employed prior to July 1st will increase their contribution to the plan to 4% of pay and those employed on or after July 1st will contribute 8%.

The pension contributions will be off-set by a corresponding salary adjustment for existing employees. New employees’ 8% contribution will only be half covered by the salary adjustment. The institution of a contribution when coupled with an off-setting salary adjustment saves the city and taxpayers approximately $ 1.9 million in the first year of the reform and $25 million over the expected 15 year period to fully fund the city’s pension obligation.

“This reform really helps us stop the growth of the unfunded liability of our current pension plan and gives us the opportunity to pay down the unfunded liability that could have threatened the plan’s sustainability in the future”, says Mayor Teresa Tomlinson. “This was the responsible thing to do and we could not have done it without the devoted assistance of employee and stakeholder involvement”.

Tomlinson established a 30 person Mayor’s Pension Review Commission in August of 2011. The Commission consisted of the city’s Pension Board members, employees, affiliate representatives and knowledgeable members of the community from the private sector. “We met multiple times a month. We crammed two-years’ worth of work into 10 months. The members of that commission were invaluable to the benefit that has just been bestowed to the city and the community through pension reform”, stated Tomlinson.

via Columbus City Council Approves Major Pension Reform – WLTZ 38 | Columbus Georgia Regional News & Community.

Bainbridge school district modifies union contract for teachers to move early-release days to Mondays – Bainbridge Island Review

The Bainbridge Island School District has reached agreement with its teachers’ union on changes to their existing contract that will modify the timing of early-release days for students.

District officials said the switch in early-release days from once a month to weekly will give teachers crucial time for professional development, given the district’s focus on new initiatives and staff improvement requirements.

Early-release days will move to Mondays each week, and students will be let out 90 minutes early starting with the 2012-13 school year.

In the past, students were dismissed 180 minutes early during one Wednesday in the middle of each month.

The changes to the collective bargaining agreement with the Bainbridge Island Education Association were approved by the school board at its last meeting.

Peter Bang-Knudsen, assistant superintendent of administrative services, said the contract changes were bargained during a mid-year re-opener.

“Usually the contracts are for two years, and so we had a couple of limited items that were re-openers. So we made some changes to the existing contract and some letters of agreement,” he said.

The contract covers approximately 250 certificated employees in the Bainbridge district, and the agreement runs through the next school year.

The entire contract will be renegotiated next spring or summer, Bang-Knudsen said.

Mondays were chosen for the early-release day to fit with the schedule at Bainbridge High School, district officials said.

The district plans on transitioning its early-release days to Wednesdays for the 2013-2014 school year.

Other changes to the union contract include an offset for the 1.9 reduction in wages for certificated staff for the 1012-2013 school year, and the start of a pilot program for a new teacher evaluation system in the coming school year. Participants would include provisional staff, members of the evaluation committee and a randomly selected group of certificated employees and volunteers.

The school board also agreed to delay the creation of a committee to address independent and contract studies and online courses until the 2012-2013 school year.

via Bainbridge school district modifies union contract for teachers to move early-release days to Mondays – Bainbridge Island Review.

A look at Buena Vista teachers union contract, set to expire June 30 |

BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP, MI — As the Buena Vista Teacher Association contract is set to expire in three days, teachers and administrators are not yet negotiating a new one.

Board of Education President Randy L. Jackson said last week the negotiations hang on hiring a superintendent and completing the 2012-13 budget.

The Buena Vista Education Association and administration signed the most recent contract, a three-year agreement from 2009 to 2012, into place on June 15, 2011.

Here’s a look at some of the agreements in the contract:

Regular teaching hours should not exceed 7.75 hours per day, including instruction time, lunch and classroom preparation.

Teachers will be paid $30 per hour for professional development.

Administrators may not call a faculty meeting lasting more than 1 hour after school more than once every two weeks.

Teachers are required to attend two activities lasting no longer than 2 hours per semester

Elementary school teachers will earn $1.09 per hour not exceeding six hours for each student that exceeds 30 total in the classroom. For middle and high school teachers, that number is 32.

In the event of layoffs, layoffs are based on seniority and certifications.

Non-tenured teachers are evaluated once a semester for four years. Tenured teachers are formally evaluated once every three years unless there is unsatisfactory performance. Both have formal classroom evaluations once a semester.

Buena Vista School District provides Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance for 12 months as long as the teacher completes the year

Dental and vision insurance is also BCBS, with $5 and $7.5o copays for vision.

According to 2008-2009 pay, annual salaries range from $40,284 to $74,182 with a 1 percent increase in 2011.

View the full contract.

The Michigan Department of Education named the district to its Persistently Lowest-Achieving Schools list in 2010. The high school has a three-year, $2.5 million School Improvement grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The district has had eight superintendents in 10 years and faces declining enrollment.  District-wide, there are about 600 students. In 1998, Buena Vista counted 1,745 students.

via A look at Buena Vista teachers union contract, set to expire June 30 |

Supreme Court’s ruling on health law carries big stakes in Minnesota –

  An expected U.S. Supreme Court decision Thursday, June 28, about the federal government’s sweeping health care law has generated at least one point of agreement for friends and foes of the legislation.

Both sides say the ruling will have a big impact in Minnesota.

For starters, the decision will affect whether about 84,000 low-income Minnesotans can continue to receive health insurance through the state-federal Medicaid program.

If the court strikes down the Medicaid coverage — which was expanded to adults without children as part of the 2010 health law — policymakers in Minnesota will again have to wrestle with how to provide care for the residents, many of whom have been shuffled among a series of government programs in recent years.

The ruling also will address whether nearly 500,000 Minnesotans who last year lacked health insurance will be forced to buy it — or pay a penalty — beginning in 2014. The federal law established what’s known as an “individual mandate” that requires people to purchase coverage while also guaranteeing that insurers offer coverage without regard to a person’s medical status.

“I think how the Supreme Court rules is going to make a difference in how affordable and accessible health care will be for people in this state,” said Liz Doyle, associate director of TakeAction Minnesota, a liberal advocacy group that supports the law. “The insurance industry consumer protections are a critically important piece that no Minnesotan

is going to want to lose.”

“At stake for Minnesota is our ability to move forward with state reforms that truly do address the cost issue with health care,” said Peter Nelson, director of public policy with the Center of the American Experiment, a conservative think tank in Minneapolis that is critical of the law. “In many ways, a lot of the reforms that were passed in the federal law may indeed aggravate the cost issue.”

On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Legal challenges were filed almost immediately.  read more…

via Supreme Court’s ruling on health law carries big stakes in Minnesota –

Confidence in US public schools at record low –

  A new poll says that confidence in U.S. public schools has dropped to the lowest level in nearly four decades.

Twenty-nine percent of those questioned in a Gallup poll said they had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in public schools. Forty percent had some confidence while 30 percent expressed little or none.

When Gallup first measured confidence in public schools in 1973, 58 percent reported having a strong belief in the country’s educational system. Since then, that number has steadily tracked downward.

The survey released Wednesday also found record lows in public confidence in churches or organized religion, banks and television news.

The poll, based on interviews with 1,004 adults June 7-10, has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

via Confidence in US public schools at record low –