TOM WARD – Costly new laws mean nothing to legislators

TOM WARD – Costly new laws mean nothing to legislators

Sadly, it’s pretty easy to tell when Rhode Islanders are about to be betrayed by its leaders. It happens for the most part in the “non-election” years after legislators have been returned to office. In the case of Gov. Gina Raimondo, this was our most danger-filled session as she was re-elected to a second term, cannot run for governor again, and is beyond the grasp of voters.

She wants to be in Washington anyway. Everybody assumes that. Her preening for progressives might land her a D.C. job, and the future damage to your family’s finances means little to her.

And so, the planets lined up this year for the pair of bills recently passed and made law. The first expands the ability of firefighters to more easily collect overtime, even though overtime budgets in most communities are in the millions.

The second was the so-called “evergreen contracts” bill, which now mandates that union contracts – after they expire – cannot be touched by mayors, school committees and town councils. Local elected representatives, the people who have to raise the taxes, have been booted out of the conversation, and unions given an automatic win if – during hard times – a contract’s status quo is good enough.

This is what happened during the Great Recession of 2009-’11, when communities were suffering with state aid cuts and were in need of relief. In the next recession, when the state is short of money (and it will come, and they will be), cities and towns will have to raise taxes as benefits like health care and pension costs continue to rise, and teachers’ unions continue to ignore negotiations.

Here in my hometown of Cumberland, we’ve as much as been warned that fire taxes will go up by the maximum for at least four more years – and that’s before this legislation was passed.

This isn’t about firefighters and the important work they do. It’s about legislators and the bad work they do, working first and foremost for the union leaders and members who are mandated to pay dues, money that flows to legislators who do their bidding. Taxpayers don’t have a chance.

The most cynical and nefarious thing about these two stinkers? Local taxpayers will get the bill! No state tax hikes are needed! Taxes will go up locally, and town councilors and school committee members will take the heat in the future, their hands tied by special interest laws that serve only a few. The state legislators responsible for future tax increases? They will either be less than truthful with you, or more likely, you will long forget what happened back in 2019.

A powerful May 15 Providence Journal editorial made the case that we are all victims of Gov. Raimondo and the General Assembly. They wrote: “Sacrificed on the altar of her ambitions, unfortunately, are the people of Rhode Island, who already pay some of the highest property taxes in America. She bought political support at the price of making Rhode Islanders even greater slaves to the special-interest politics that plague the state.”

It was also noted that we pay far more in taxes for fire departments than any other state in the nation. By a lot.

What makes this most maddening is that legislators know all of this, and they know with certainty that voters will forget all of this next year. They win; taxpayers lose. As long as political leaders recognize that “the people” are no threat to them, bad special-interest legislation will continue to flow, harming businesses and families. Who needs this?

Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze.

Comments

A few inaccuracies I see right away, one is that per SCOTUS, no public sector employee can be mandated to pay union dues and the other false claim is that dues money are used for political contributions. Federal law prohibits using union dues for contributions, contributing to PAC accounts is also voluntary. Also keep in mind a contract... called a collective bargaining agreement... is a two sided agreement. The evergreen clause can also work exclusively beneficial to the management side as well. Also, almost all firefighters in the state already work 42 hours per week and already are receiving overtime over that hour. There are only paid departments in the state on 56 hour work weeks.

You forgot to say that if a public sector employee refuses to pay union dues they will are publicly ostracized, humiliated and insulted by other public sector employees who blindly support their unions. This is from experience and the reason I went to private sector non-union employment after less than one year working in a union job and environment.

One person’s experience isn’t a reflection of everyone’s. I’m sorry that has happened to you and true professionals understand and respect the opinions and logic of others. I’m in a private sector union and union membership is a condition of employment. I’m lucky in that regards because we are all equally represented and pay our dues for the representation equally. It would be tough to swallow to work with someone who reaps the benefits of a certain body yet doesn’t pay their fair share. This is much like those who suck off the welfare system. All the best to you in your current profession, we all want to prosper and have to do what’s right for us and our families.