What A Dream Governor Would Do
Wednesday - March 24, 2010
I had a dream that I was elected governor.
I didn’t wait for Gov. Lingle’s term to expire. I moved into the Capitol, hired Lowell Kalapa from the Tax Foundation of Hawaii as chief financial adviser. Avi Soifer of the UH law school came aboard as attorney general.
Then I went to the union chiefs and said there’d be big layoffs for a couple of years as spending is cut back. That I was outsourcing most clerical jobs in every state office. As Barron’s said on its March 15 front page: “States and cities are going broke. One reason: gold-plated pensions for police, firemen, teachers and bureaucrats.”
Pew Research says Hawaii is 10th worst in underfunding for pensions. We’ll need tax hikes or service cuts to make up the 31 percent shortfall. Not on my watch!
Maybe I sound like a Tea Party freak, but I’m not. I’m a progressive who believes you can’t spend what you don’t have and what you have must be spent wisely. And I sense that the electorate is ready to rein in the clout of public employee unions.
Even the workers’ emancipator Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t favor public sector unions. He only worked to give a voice to people in the factories and on the assembly lines. Today, the majority of union members in America works for government.
Twenty-three percent of Americans were in labor unions in 1980. By 2009, that figure dropped to 12.3 percent. But 52 percent of all union members work now for federal, state and local governments.
Hawaii’s an odd state. The heavy part of our government work force has the right of arbitration of new contracts. That means no need to suffer a strike. Three arbitrators can determine that our state and counties have money in the coffers for a raise and should pay it, even if the executive feels that money should be spent on public programs, not increased union salaries.
A national study shows that a local government union employee averages almost $40 an hour in wages and benefits while the same level person in the private sector averages about $27.
We cranked up pension and health benefits that are the envy of just about every working person in America outside the United Auto Workers union before the roof caved in on it in 2008.
The HGEA, UPW and HSTA have become potent lobbying forces. We let that happen without addressing a balance of power. Governors and legislators have shied away from taking on the government unions. The exception was Ben Cayetano. His effort went nowhere.
I’m certainly no Tea Party person, but I’ve gotten increasingly unhappy with the spending, the drag-foot of the teachers union on reform and merit pay, the dollars spent by public unions to safeguard the legislation that safeguards benefits no private sector person could hope to have.
Ah, but morning comes and my dream fades. I’m not the governor.
I met some of my Vietnam travelers at Duc’s Bistro on Maunakea Street for a reunion lunch, parking across that one-way street. People park, check for very infrequent traffic and cross to the restaurant.
A cop had staked out the place. Easy prey at lunchtime. Handed out $130 jaywalking tickets like candy to my guests. Nobody’s ever been hit there. It’s just easy pickings at lunchtime - easy ticket quotas.
If pedestrian safety is really the issue, wouldn’t verbal warnings and brochures like those handed out by officers in the University area last week work just as well?
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