by Howard Stephenson
AT THE STATE LEVEL
The legal battle over Utah’s Voluntary Contributions Act (aka “Paycheck Protection”) continues. On April 29th, Judge Stephen L. Henriod denied the state’s request to lift the preliminary injunction against implementation of the Act. As a result, taxpayers will continue to act as a collection agent for public employee union PACs until at least October, when the case goes to trial.
Many observers interpret this ruling as a temporary setback for taxpayers and a victory for the unions – the Utah Public Employees Association (UPEA) and the Utah Education Association (UEA).
Attorneys for the state attempted to have the injunction partially lifted by requesting that the Labor Code provisions and the Election Code provisions be considered separately. Judge Henriod ruled that the provisions are so intertwined that they are unable to operate independently from each other.
The 2001 legislature narrowly passed the Voluntary Contributions Act sponsored by Rep. Chad Bennion (R-Murray). At the legislature, advocates of the measure successfully argued that state and local governments should not be using taxpayer resources to collect union political action committee (PAC) money. Proponents maintained that union PACs should collect contributions the same way other private organizations collect contributions, by asking donors to write a check out of the family checking account. Currently, state government as well as school districts, cities, and counties collect union PAC dues via payroll deductions and transfer the collections to the unions. Using the government as a collection agent has allowed the public employee unions to amass huge campaign war chests which empower the unions to contribute liberally to the campaigns of legislative candidates who are typically not friendly to taxpayers. In the 2000 elections, public employee unions, particularly the UPEA and the UEA, contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to candidates in both parties.
These massive contributions explain why public employee unions wield influence at the legislature that is disproportionately large compared to the number of workers in Utah that are employed by local and state governments.
AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL
Public employee unions are making progress in Washington D. C. also. For months public employee unions have attempted to pass legislation in congress to force every police officer, firefighter, and EMT in the country under the control of unions. The ultimate goal, according to the National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC) is to add tens of thousands of forced dues-paying members to Big Labor’s ranks — regardless of what state and local governments want, or what the individual workers want.
Just two days after the terrorist attacks last September, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D., Mass.) and the Senate Labor Committee moved the misnamed “Public Safety Employer- Employee Cooperation Act” (S.952/ H.R.1475) onto the Senate floor without a recorded vote. NRTWC claims the measure would force every policeman, firefighter, and emergency worker in the country to either submit to union control — or be fired. Just a few nights after that, Senator Kennedy waited until nearly every other senator had gone home for the evening and tried to pass the legislation by “unanimous consent.” Another senator intervened in time to stop passage.
According to the NRTWC, when the Senate debated a major appropriations bill just a few weeks later, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D., S.D.) tried to add S.952 as an amendment. Other senators stopped the scheme with a filibuster, but it was a very close call. The unions then decided to get the legislation through the House first, then come back through the Senate. They apparently believe they can get the necessary votes to overturn a potential presidential veto, amounting to the largest expansion of union rights Congress has considered in decades.
GROWTH IN PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS
Over the years, unionization has grown rapidly in the public sector because unions have learned that the limiting forces of the marketplace in private sector jobs restricted the ability of the unions to have their demands met. The public sector, however, has a more unlimited supply of money from taxes. This has produced a significant change in public-private union membership in the United States. In 1948, public sector union membership comprised just 5% of total union membership. Thirty-five percent of private sector jobs were unionized, compared to just 12% of public sector jobs. By the year 2000, public sector union membership had grown drastically, amounting to 44% of total union membership. Private sector unionism had dropped to just 9% of private sector employment while public sector jobs had become 38% unionized.
This is just one example of Jim Hansen’s successful service to the citizens of the state of Utah. We could spend the rest of the afternoon enumerating Congressman Hansen’s successful work in fighting to protect other military installations, his work advocating for NASA and the Space Shuttle, Thiokol (now Alliant Tech), Utah defense contractors, Utah State University, public lands and natural resources, National Parks, National Monuments and Heritage Areas, the Central Utah Project, payments in lieu of taxes, disaster assistance for Utah counties, transportation and public works, and the list goes on and on. He sponsored the legislation to return to the states the right to set their own speed limits on highways.
Mr. Hansen was the longest-serving member in history on the House Ethics Committee. Because of his integrity, he was entrusted to investigate the abuses by some members of the House bank, the ABSCAM bribery scandal, and investigations of Speakers Jim Wright and Newt Gingrich.
Jim Hansen is the Only Utah Congressman to ever chair a full Congressional Committee and he chaired two: The Ethics committee and the Committee on Resources.
Many national taxpayer groups and citizen groups have given Congressman Hansen their highest awards including the following: Americans for Tax Reform – “Hero of the Taxpayer Award”, The Watchdogs of the Treasury, Inc. “Golden Bulldog Award”, Citizens for a Sound Economy “Jefferson Award”, National Federation of Independent Business “Guardian of Small Business” award, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “Spirit of Enterprise” 100% Award.
And now, added to his list of recognitions is the Utah Taxpayers Association’s “2002 Lifetime Service Award.”
MAYOR NANCY WORKMAN
When voters approved the Mayor-Council form of government we were all a little nervous about whether the new form of government would be more or less costly for taxpayers. Then when the outgoing three commissioners balanced their final budget with a massive property tax increase, everyone wondered if the new Mayor and Council would just accept it as a new, higher spending base to give them more wiggle room, or whether they would accept the challenge from taxpayers to trim spending.
We were thrilled to see this new mayor’s leadership in taking on department heads – with whom she had become so close as the elected county recorder and even the Sheriff, who had the upper hand with public opinion which always seems to support more spending for public safety.
Mayor Workman stood her ground and actually proposed a nearly $1 million cut in the property tax which had been adopted by the commissioners.
But convincing the council was a difficult task. It looked like the Mayor’s tax proposal was one vote shy of passage when she and the Taxpayers Association tag-teamed our lobbying of the council. In the meeting where the vote was taken, the message given by the Mayor and Taxpayers Association were compelling: Taxpayers had had enough. The vote was then called and we saw the Mayor’s proposal to reduce the municipal services tax increase pass by a narrow 5 to 4 vote.
But Mayor Workman still wasn’t satisfied. Last fall, she made sure the first budget she presented to the Council was virtually flat, requiring departments to trim spending in order to accommodate inflationary costs.
This legislative session members of the Salt Lake County Council were hoping the county could get the legislature to authorize a 6% utility franchise tax in the unincorporated areas of the county. This tax could have a devastating impact on jobs which rely on energy consumption. Mayor Workman told council members that she would be opposing the utility franchise tax. Advocates of the tax decided this was not the year.
For her fiscal toughness and her refusal to be intimidated, Mayor Nancy Workman received the “2002 Taxpayer Advocate of the Year Award.”