Government Unions are Different

With our various levels of government grappling with revenues falling short of expenses, there is a long overdue focus being put on the state of government labor.  The recent Chicago teachers strike should be seen as an example of the excesses of government unions.  Reporting lumps all unionization into one category, and there is no distinction expressed between private and public unions. Public sector unions are different from private unions in that they have no “Free Market” competition to keep their demands in line.  In addition, the cozy relationship between the Democratic Party and public unions create a conflict of interest for elected officials.

In the private sector there are market restraints on what a union can demand.  If UPS (union) workers demand too much in compensation as to render their company non-competitive with FedEx (non-union), they will lose business.  This puts a “real world” restraint on what these unions can demand in terms of compensation and benefits.  Corporations can go out of business, which obviously would hurt the union employees.  GM & Chrysler notwithstanding, this market mechanism works well.  Government has no competition, and is in effect a monopoly in terms of the services that it supplies.  Therefore, there is no similar control placed upon public sector union demands.  If government workers go on strike, where else can consumers go to get their drivers licenses?

With the lack of market forces, taxpayers must rely exclusively upon management to say no to costly demands.  The managers who are sitting on the other side of the negotiating table are elected officials.  There is a political party, however, that is beholden to the very government unions they are supposed to be negotiating with.  The Democratic Party receives an overwhelming amount of money in political donations from public sector unions.  In fact, their top 4 donors are various government unions.  Many candidates go to union sponsored events, and pledge their support for union causes.  If a candidate for office received a donation from a corporation, then after being elected, gave a lucrative no-bid contract to that corporation it would be called corruption. How is this situation any different?

Considering most government entities (other than federal) must balance their budgets every year, you would think that politicians would be restricted from offering paybacks to the unions. They can’t give what they don’t have, right?  The problem with this argument is that the official has the ability to promise, and get passed into law, retirement and health benefits that will be paid for in the future. This takes away any current budgetary restraint that may exist, and puts us in the situation we find ourselves today all across the nation.

Our country is reaching a tipping point with all of the debts we have built up, and there needs to be a sober national conversation on these problems.  Without market forces, and the taxpayer representatives beholden to the unions, what chance do we have?  Nobody wants to talk about cutting pay or benefits, but the costs have simply gotten out of hand.  The taxes that will need to be levied to support this kind of uncontrollable spending will hit all Americans.  This issue is at the core of what kind of country, and opportunities we will pass on to our children.

via Government Unions are Different.

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Former Anderson police chief Martin Brown says he is on a mission » Anderson Independent Mail

PHOTO BY KEN RUINARD, ANDERSON INDEPENDENT MAIL // BUY THIS PHOTO

Martin Brown, former Anderson police chief, talks about the termination notice he received. Brown spoke at a news conference Friday in the G. Ross Anderson Jr. Federal Building in Anderson.

ANDERSON — Fired Anderson Police Chief Martin Brown says he is on a mission to restore his integrity and reputation. And to get his job back.

Brown said his firing last week came after his employees — whom he called “Judases and Benedict Arnolds” — worked to push him out by going behind his back to city administrators.

The former chief vowed Friday to keep fighting to get his job, and his honor, restored.

Martin Brown speaks out

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Brown’s termination letter, signed last week by city manager John Moore, says that Brown’s tenure at the department came with “several positive operational and procedural changes,” but also came with “significant conflict.” Moore said Brown had lost the support of many of his officers at all ranks.

Brown was placed on administrative leave Aug. 17.

Moore said that when he and assistant city manager Linda McConnell met with Brown during his administrative leave to discuss ways Brown could retire, the police chief was “combative from the start.”

Brown has filed a grievance with the city, which would allow him a closed hearing before seven city employees who are members of a grievance committee. The committee would make a report and recommendation to the city manager. Under the city’s grievance policy, the process is expected to be kept confidential.

Brown spent more than an hour and a half Friday at a press conference talking to reporters and about a dozen supporters in a courtroom in the G. Ross Anderson Jr. Federal Building in Anderson. That building is named for the federal judge who Brown has called a mentor and who Brown thanked as he began his defense.

Brown took all questions, passionately defending his reputation as an honest lawman. He has not been accused of any criminal or moral wrongdoing, but of handling his employees poorly, something he fiercely contested by saying he held the employees to high standards.

The termination letter from Moore says Brown retaliated and investigated police department top employees after they complained to Moore without checking with the chief first.

Brown also disobeyed instructions from Moore to avoid confronting those employees, according to the letter.

Brown said Friday that he did investigate the employees, including captains, because the police department’s codes first require permission from the chief before speaking about department policy to city administrators.

The former chief admitted he used foul language in a lengthy confrontation with one captain the day before Brown was placed on leave. Brown said he could have delivered the message better but stuck by his decision to confront his subordinate.

After Brown was placed on administrative leave for management problems and was given a choice of being fired or retiring, he declined to quit.

Brown said his counter offer was that he be allowed back as chief, to restore his honor and reputation, for several months and then he would be willing to resign.

Moore told the chief in a phone message August 23 that he would be fired, and it was put in writing the next day.

At the press conference, the former chief recalled his leading accomplishments, getting accreditation for the first time for the department and setting long-term goals in a written master plan, and stridently defended his reputation as an honest chief. Brown retired from a 30-year career with the FBI in 2006 to become Anderson’s police chief.

Brown said that despite his upbringing in Belton, where he began his law enforcement career, officers in Anderson always considered him an outsider.

Brown said he had maintained from his first day as chief that his goal was to be the first and last Anderson Police chief hired from outside the department and he would ensure that by taking his captains under his wing and also by working to build a command college at Anderson University so officers could get a top-notch education.

Brown also said he had been pressured to switch his internal affairs director but said no one had presented reasons to move Robert Smith out of the job. After Brown was placed on leave, detention center Capt. Jim Stewart was named interim chief. One of Stewart’s first decisions was to remove Smith from the internal affairs role.

Asked Friday if he supported Stewart as the interim chief, Brown said, “I’m not going to speak to that. I’m just not going to speak to that.”

Brown said the department does not have a morale problem, as city administrators charge, but has a problem with accountability. Officers who have been investigated by internal affairs were questioned for legitimate reasons such as failing to finish reports at the end of their shifts or failure to file evidence correctly, Brown said.

“These are the standards we took an oath to uphold,” he said. “I explained to them that I could not make a reassignment without reason.”

Moore said Friday that he would not comment directly on any allegations that the former police chief levied during his news conference.

“He has filed a grievance with the city, and just like any city employee, he deserves a fair and unbiased hearing,” Moore said. “I am going to limit my comments out of respect for him and the process.”

Brown said the conflicts over Smith’s role played a larger part in his firing than the reasons Moore listed in the termination letter.

via Former Anderson police chief Martin Brown says he is on a mission » Anderson Independent Mail.

Gov. Haley talks vetoes, signs pension reform in Aiken

AIKEN, S.C. — With Governor Nikki Haley’s ceremonial signature at Newberry Hall in Aiken, pension reform becomes law in South Carolina.

“This pension reform bill immediately reduces South Carolina’s debt by $2 billion. It immediately saves tax-payers $300 million a year,” she said.

It was an issue championed by retiring Aiken Senator Greg Ryberg (R-Aiken).

“Through getting it done, we can now say that we heard back from Moody’s, and they said that we have a Credit Plus rating, which is very very strong for our state,” said Governor Haley.

State Representative Bill Hixon (R-North Augusta) says it’s a pill the state has to swallow.

“I have lots of friends that are teachers, and I have lots of friends that are policemen, and we did what I thought was the best thing to do,” he told News 12.

State employees will now contribute more to pension plans each year. It’ll mean that state employees will have to work for 30 years before they collect pensions. For officers and firefighters, they’ll need to work 27 years, instead of 25 to collect their pensions. It’ll also eliminate the Teachers and Employee Retention Incentive (TERI) program. State employees who retire and get a new job won’t be able to collect two checks.

“The system wasn’t designed that way. The system was designed for 30 years you retire and you’re gone,” Hixon said.

Meanwhile, Republican Senate District 26 candidate Deedee Vaughters hopes the bill will strengthen next session.

“We have legislators who take their retirement while serving. Retirement is more than their salary, so financially, they’re just looking to essentially fleece the tax-payer for their own financial gain,” she said, after a rousing speech to the Newberry Hall Aiken Republican Club luncheon

“All these things need to continue to be revisited and made stronger,” added Haley.

Governor Haley also defended and explained some of her controversial vetoes during a speech to the Aiken Republican Club. The legislature overrode 48 of her 81 vetoes.

Haley says, in many cases, the legislature forced her to veto components of the budget.

“What has happened is I’m blessed to be a governor who has a line-item veto, but I’ve also got a legislature that understands if they bundle items, I can’t go in and eliminate any lines. Department of Education is a perfect one. If it’s bundled, I can’t go and take out certain programs that I don’t think work,” the governor said.

She went on to explain her most controversial vetoes, one by one. One veto would have stripped millions from rape center’s like Aiken’s Cumbee Center.

“To say that I don’t support rape victims is absurd,” said Governor Haley. “What we vetoed was one organization that was getting one-time money that was going through a special loop-hole through DHEC. That’s what we vetoed.”

However, that veto was overridden.

The next would have scrapped the Arts Commission, which essentially dishes out art grants across the state, even in Aiken. But for Governor Haley and Representative Hixon, it’s the commission, not the arts, that was vetoed.

Hixon already gave the commission director a stern warning.

“I gave him the shot across the bow, as they say. He’s not done anything we asked him to do. I think he’s showing his arrogance, and I told him that,” he said.

Governor Haley said the Arts Commission has been vetoed before, and they didn’t learn. She says it’s an 18 man operation in an 18,000 square foot building that’s given $1.6 million a year.

The legislature, however, overrode the veto, and the commission survives, but Hixon says next year, they won’t be as forgiving.

“I will not vote for it in 2013 if his organization has not been reorganized,” said Hixon.

Both Hixon and Haley were disappointed the legislature didn’t establish a Department of Administration. It would have scrapped what’s called the Budget and Control Board. It’s a five-member panel that controls large amounts of money and is allowed to run deficits. Hixon hopes to dump that board next session. He also hopes to address the problem that kicked so many candidates off the ballot this past spring.

via Gov. Haley talks vetoes, signs pension reform in Aiken.

Moody’s: Pension reform is ‘Credit Positive’ for S.C. | equities.com

Targeted News Service

COLUMBIA, S.C., July 10 — Gov. Nikki Haley, R-S.C., issued the following news release:

Pension reform legislation signed into law last month by Governor Nikki Haley has had an immediate positive impact on South Carolina’s fiscal condition, according to analysis from Moody’s, one of the country’s three primary credit ratings agencies. The new law reduces the state’s unfunded liability by $2 billion in year one and completely eliminates it over the next 30 years.

“Our pension system’s unfunded liability had grown $10 billion over the last decade, and it threatened our long term fiscal health and stability. In talking to credit rating agencies about how to best protect the credit of South Carolina, they repeatedly insisted that the most important action we could take was to reduce those unfunded liabilities,” Gov. Haley said. “We did just that this year, and as we can see, it’s already paying off. By doing things like getting rid of the TERI program, closing the separate, privileged retirement system for legislators, and cutting the taxpayer dollars going to pay for the retirement of state employees, we have established a solid foundation for the state’s two largest retirement systems, and for South Carolina as a whole. This is great news.”

Moody’s Weekly Credit Outlook for July 9, 2012, reports, “South Carolina’s $2 billion pension liability reduction is credit positive for state and local governments…Last Tuesday, actuaries for the state of South Carolina (Aaa stable) determined that recently enacted public pension reform legislation reduces the South Carolina Retirement System’s (SCRS) current unfunded liability to $12.4 billion from $14.4 billion, a credit positive for the state and for local governments that participate in SCRS…the law will reverse liability growth and reduce state and local government contributions requirement over time.”

Moody’s Weekly Credit Outlook (http://www.governor.sc.gov/Documents/MoodysPensionReform.PDF)

via Headline Story | equities.com.

Gov. Haley says pension reform is paying off – South Carolina & Regional – Wire – MyrtleBeachOnline.com

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Gov. Nikki Haley says South Carolina’s 11-day-old law reforming the pension system for public workers is already paying off.

The Republican governor pointed Tuesday to a weekly report by Moody’s Investors Service, which features the law she signed June 29.

Moody’s noted in its Weekly Credit Outlook on Monday that the reform measures will reduce the state’s long-term unfunded liability by $2 billion. Moody’s called it a credit positive for the state and local governments.

Legislators passed a compromise of the House’s and Senate’s separate reform measures on the last day of an extended legislative session.

The law limits employees’ ability to officially retire, return to work and collect two checks.

For those hired after July 1, it also changes how benefits are calculated and how long they must work.

via Gov. Haley says pension reform is paying off – South Carolina & Regional – Wire – MyrtleBeachOnline.com.

Legislature approves compromise on pension reform – CBS News

Legislature approves compromise on pension reform

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A bill reforming South Carolina’s pension systems for public workers headed Thursday to the governor’s desk, as the special legislative session wound to a close.

The House voted 88-9 and the Senate voted 43-0 on a compromise agreed to hours earlier by a six-member conference committee. The agreement is largely the Senate’s version of the bill.

“I think it’s a fabulous package,” said Sen. Greg Ryberg, R-Aiken. The retiring senator, who’s fought for pension reform for years, praised the compromise as keeping the system solvent, while being fair to workers.

Rep. Jim Merrill, who led the House panel on the issue, described it as “very, very, very good.”

“To not do retirement is unacceptable. Voters won’t accept it. The public won’t accept it. It’s really not even an option,” Merrill, R-Charleston, said in asking the House for approval.

The governor is expected to sign the legislation. In a news conference Thursday morning, she urged legislators to pass it.

Both House and Senate versions already exempted current workers from changes in benefit calculations, applying only to those hired after June 30, and allowed current employees to retire with full benefits after 28 years of work.

Only new employees would be barred from factoring up to 45 days of unused vacation and 90 accrued sick days into their benefit calculations. For new hires, benefits will be based on employees’ final five years of pay, rather than the current three-year average.

Under the approved compromise, new employees must meet a so-called “rule of 90” to earn full benefits, meaning that the worker’s age and years of service must equal 90 at the time of retirement.

Employees’ contributions would increase by 1.5 percentage points over three years, from 6.5 percent to 8 percent of their salaries, with the first step taking effect July 1.

The Teachers and Employee Retention Incentive program would phase out in 2018. TERI allows public workers to officially retire but remain on the job for up to five years and accumulate pension benefits. Employees could enter the program as late as June 2013 and get the entire five-year benefit.

A limit on return-to-work employees takes effect Jan. 2, giving employees seven months to take full advantage of drawing both a salary and retirement. Next year, employees who officially retire then return to work would stop getting two checks once their regular pay for the year reaches $10,000. After reaching that ceiling, employees would draw only their salary. The process would repeat yearly.

A retiree must sit out for 30 days before returning to a job.

The compromise also adopted the Senate’s automatic increase in retirees’ checks. The House had tied any increase to the pension portfolio’s rate of return. But the compromise guarantees a 1 percent increase, though with a cap of $500.

The threat of a $147 million bill loomed.

If the Legislature hadn’t passed the bill, leaving the pension systems in status quo, the Budget and Control Board would need to vote as soon as next week to increase employer contributions to 12.2 percent in July 2013, up from the 10.6 percent taking effect in 10 days.

Those employer contributions equal taxpayers, through budgets of the state, local governments and school districts.

via Legislature approves compromise on pension reform – CBS News.

Committee agrees to compromise on pension reform | The Greenville News | GreenvilleOnline.com

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A conference committee has agreed to a compromise on reforming South Carolina’s pension systems for public workers.

The six-member committee unanimously approved an agreement Thursday morning but did not discuss it publicly. Legislators refused to detail afterward what’s in the compromise.

It was the conference committee’s first public meeting in two weeks.

Committee leaders aren’t providing a breakdown until they report to their colleagues in the House and Senate.

But Democratic Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter says the agreement accomplishes the goal of shoring up the pension systems to ensure that workers get their benefit checks decades from now, and she’s proud of the end result.

Both the House and Senate versions exempted current employees from most of the changes. Changes in benefit calculations begin with employees hired after July 1.

via Committee agrees to compromise on pension reform | The Greenville News | GreenvilleOnline.com.

Legislature approves compromise on pension reform | GoErie.com/Erie Times-News

A bill reforming South Carolina’s pension systems for public workers headed Thursday to the governor’s desk, as the special legislative session wound to a close.

The House voted 88-9 and the Senate voted 43-0 on a compromise agreed to hours earlier by a six-member conference committee. The agreement is largely the Senate’s version of the bill.

“I think it’s a fabulous package,” said Sen. Greg Ryberg, R-Aiken. The retiring senator, who’s fought for pension reform for years, praised the compromise as keeping the system solvent, while being fair to workers.

Rep. Jim Merrill, who led the House panel on the issue, described it as “very, very, very good.”

“To not do retirement is unacceptable. Voters won’t accept it. The public won’t accept it. It’s really not even an option,” Merrill, R-Charleston, said in asking the House for approval.

The governor is expected to sign the legislation. In a news conference Thursday morning, she urged legislators to pass it.

Both House and Senate versions already exempted current workers from changes in benefit calculations, applying only to those hired after June 30, and allowed current employees to retire with full benefits after 28 years of work.

Only new employees would be barred from factoring up to 45 days of unused vacation and 90 accrued sick days into their benefit calculations. For new hires, benefits will be based on employees’ final five years of pay, rather than the current three-year average.

Under the approved compromise, new employees must meet a so-called “rule of 90” to earn full benefits, meaning that the worker’s age and years of service must equal 90 at the time of retirement.

Employees’ contributions would increase by 1.5 percentage points over three years, from 6.5 percent to 8 percent of their salaries, with the first step taking effect July 1.

The Teachers and Employee Retention Incentive program would phase out in 2018. TERI allows public workers to officially retire but remain on the job for up to five years and accumulate pension benefits. Employees could enter the program as late as June 2013 and get the entire five-year benefit.

A limit on return-to-work employees takes effect Jan. 2, giving employees seven months to take full advantage of drawing both a salary and retirement. Next year, employees who officially retire then return to work would stop getting two checks once their regular pay for the year reaches $10,000. After reaching that ceiling, employees would draw only their salary. The process would repeat yearly.

A retiree must sit out for 30 days before returning to a job.

The compromise also adopted the Senate’s automatic increase in retirees’ checks. The House had tied any increase to the pension portfolio’s rate of return. But the compromise guarantees a 1 percent increase, though with a cap of $500.

The threat of a $147 million bill loomed.

If the Legislature hadn’t passed the bill, leaving the pension systems in status quo, the Budget and Control Board would need to vote as soon as next week to increase employer contributions to 12.2 percent in July 2013, up from the 10.6 percent taking effect in 10 days.

Those employer contributions equal taxpayers, through budgets of the state, local governments and school districts.

via Legislature approves compromise on pension reform | GoErie.com/Erie Times-News.

Legislature OKs compromise on pension reform | Aiken Standard

COLUMBIA — A bill reforming South Carolina’s pension systems for public workers headed Thursday to the governor’s desk, as the special legislative session wound to a close.

The House voted 88-9 and the Senate voted 43-0 on a compromise agreed to hours earlier by a six-member conference committee. The agreement is largely the Senate’s version of the bill.

“I think it’s a fabulous package,” said Sen. Greg Ryberg, R-Aiken. The retiring senator, who’s fought for pension reform for years, praised the compromise as keeping the system solvent, while being fair to workers.

Rep. Jim Merrill, who led the House panel on the issue, described it as “very, very, very good.”

“To not do retirement is unacceptable. Voters won’t accept it. The public won’t accept it. It’s really not even an option,” Merrill, R-Charleston, said in asking the House for approval.

The governor is expected to sign the legislation. In a news conference Thursday morning, she urged legislators to pass it.

Both House and Senate versions already exempted current workers from changes in benefit calculations, applying only to those hired after June 30, and allowed current employees to retire with full benefits after 28 years of work.

Only new employees would be barred from factoring up to 45 days of unused vacation and 90 accrued sick days into their benefit calculations. For new hires, benefits will be based on employees’ final five years of pay, rather than the current three-year average.

Under the approved compromise, new employees must meet a so-called “rule of 90” to earn full benefits, meaning that the worker’s age and years of service must equal 90 at the time of retirement.

Employees’ contributions would increase by 1.5 percentage points over three years, from 6.5 percent to 8 percent of their salaries, with the first step taking effect July 1.

The Teachers and Employee Retention Incentive program would phase out in 2018. TERI allows public workers to officially retire but remain on the job for up to five years and accumulate pension benefits. Employees could enter the program as late as June 2013 and get the entire five-year benefit.

A limit on return-to-work employees takes effect Jan. 2, giving employees seven months to take full advantage of drawing both a salary and retirement. Next year, employees who officially retire then return to work would stop getting two checks once their regular pay for the year reaches $10,000. After reaching that ceiling, employees would draw only their salary. The process would repeat yearly.

A retiree must sit out for 30 days before returning to a job.

The compromise also adopted the Senate’s automatic increase in retirees’ checks. The House had tied any increase to the pension portfolio’s rate of return. But the compromise guarantees a 1 percent increase, though with a cap of $500.

The threat of a $147 million bill loomed.

If the Legislature hadn’t passed the bill, leaving the pension systems in status quo, the Budget and Control Board would need to vote as soon as next week to increase employer contributions to 12.2 percent in July 2013, up from the 10.6 percent taking effect in 10 days.

Those employer contributions equal taxpayers, through budgets of the state, local governments and school districts.

via Legislature OKs compromise on pension reform | Aiken Standard.

SC House approves compromise on pension reform – CBS News

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The House has approved a compromise on reforming South Carolina’s pension systems for public workers.

The House voted 88-9 on Thursday on a compromise agreed to hours earlier by a six-member conference committee. The agreement is largely the Senate’s version of the bill.

Current employees could still retire with full benefits after 28 years of work. Workers hired after July 1 would face a more complex requirement.

Employees’ contributions would increase by 1.5 percentage points over three years, from 6 percent to 8 percent. The Teachers and Employee Retention Incentive program would phase out in 2018.

A limit on return-to-work employees takes effect Jan. 1. Employees who officially retire then return to work would stop getting two checks once their regular pay for the year reaches $10,000.

via SC House approves compromise on pension reform – CBS News.