Posts Tagged ‘unions’

Texas vs. California Update for April 24, 2015

Friday, April 24th, 2015

Time for another Texas vs. California roundup:

  • The Manhattan Institute has a new report out discussing how California’s pension spending is starting to crowd out essential services. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Austin is the number one city in the country for technology job creation.
  • Texas unemployment is down to 4.2%.
  • That’s the lowest unemployment rate since March of 2007.
  • Marin County Grand Jury:

    Unfunded pension liabilities are a concern for county and city governments throughout California. Reviewing this problem in Marin County, the Grand Jury examined four public employers that participate in the Marin County Employees’ Retirement Association (MCERA): County of Marin, City of San Rafael, Novato Fire Protection District, and the Southern Marin Fire Protection District, hereafter collectively referred to as “Employer(s)”

    The Grand Jury interviewed representatives of the County of Marin, sponsors of MCERA administered retirement plans, representatives of MCERA, and members of the various Employer governing boards and staff. It also consulted with actuaries, various citizen groups, and the Grand Jury’s independent court-appointed lawyers.

    In so doing, the Grand Jury found that those Employers granted no less than thirty-eight pension enhancements from 2001- 2006, each of which appears to have violated disclosure requirements and fiscal responsibility requirements of the California Government Code.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • The Marin Country lawyer: Nothing to see in this Grand Jury Report! Critics: Hey, aren’t you pulling down a cool $434,000 by “triple dipping” the existing system? (Ditto.)
  • Why does the University of California system have to hike tuition 28%? Simple: Pensions.

    As with other areas of state and local budgets, a big factor is pension costs, which for UC have grown from $44 million in 2009-10 to $957 million in 2014-15. And the number of employees making more than $200,000 almost doubled from 2007-13, from 3,018 to 5,933.

    While total UC employees rose 11 percent from October 2007 to October 2014, the group labeled “Senior Management Group and Management and Senior Personnel” jumped 32 percent.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • Los Angeles Teacher’s Union gets a 10% pay hike over two years.
  • Like everything else associated with ObamaCare, covered California is screwed up.
  • BART wants a tax increase. This is my shocked face. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • And by my count, there are 157 BART employees who make more than $200,000 a year in salary and benefits…
  • California state senate committee votes to raise California’s minimum wage to $13 by 2017. If I were Gov. Greg Abbott, I’d be ready to start sending Texas relocation information packets to large California employers the minute this gets signed into law.
  • California-based Frederick’s of Hollywood files for bankruptcy. The retail lingerie business just isn’t what it used to be…
  • Torrence, California newspaper wins Pulitzer Prize for reporting on local school district corruption.
  • Priorities: Carson, California approves $1.7 billion for an NFL stadium even though they don’t have an NFL team to put in it.
  • Dilbert’s Scott Adams weighs in on California’s drought:

  • Texas vs. California Update for April 15, 2015

    Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

    Hope you’ve finished your taxes already! Time for another Texas vs. California update:

  • Detroit and Stockton’s bankruptcies may signal further problems nationwide, says New York Fed President William Dudley. “While these particular bankruptcy filings have captured a considerable amount of attention, and rightly so, they may foreshadow more widespread problems than what might be implied by current bond ratings.”
  • The Texas senate approves a $211.4 billion biannual budget, which will need to be reconciled with the $209.8 billion House budget. Both budgets offer tax relief, but of different kinds.
  • The senate also zero funds two rogue agencies the Texas Racing Commission and the Travis County Public Integrity Unit. Expect Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, with deep ties to the gambling industry, to go to the mat to save the Racing Commission.
  • The Texas senate has also passed signifcant spending limit reform in Senate Bill 9.
  • CalPERS raises contribution rates by 6%.
  • California senate OKs yet another restrictive energy policy bill. Yet another in their continuing “Let’s send as much business to Texas as possible” acts…
  • Los Angeles Unified School District extends lavish employee benefits package another three years, despite existing underfunded liabilities. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • California sets aside $261 million for cost overruns on its already pricey high speed rail boondoggle.
  • California’s drought is something environmentalist liberal elites have brought on themselves: “Those who did the most to cancel water projects and divert reservoir water to pursue their reactionary nineteenth-century dreams of a scenic, depopulated, and fish-friendly environment enjoy lifestyles predicated entirely on the fragile early twentieth-century water projects of the sort they now condemn.”
  • More on the same theme.
  • San Diego builds a desalinization plant (Hat tip: Moe Lane.)
  • Central California is already starting to suffer water-related thefts.
  • In the wake of the Vergara ruling, California Republicans want to overhaul how teachers are hired and fired. Naturally teacher’s unions are opposed…
  • Judge rules that California must pay for sex change operations for prisoners on Eight Amendment grounds. “To contend that ‘forcing’ a prisoner to continue as a man violates the Constitution is absurd…It is nonsensical to grant imprisoned convicted felons health-care ‘entitlements’ that many law-abiding, hardworking taxpayers don’t enjoy.”
  • California prostitutes demand prostitution be legalized. You’d think they’d get a sympathetic hearing from California’s Democrat-controlled legislation, what with all they have in common… (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Stanford student council candidate grilled over Colleging While Jewish. This could go in the regular LinkSwarm, but I noticed that both of these recent incidents took place in California.
  • Chicago Is Detroit Is California Is Greece

    Sunday, April 5th, 2015

    National Journal has a piece up by moderate lefty John B. Judis on all the problems plaguing Chicago.

    Perhaps more than any other major city in America, Chicago is facing a truly grave set of problems—problems that are essentially more extreme versions of the challenges confronting city governments across the country.

    But there’s a vital piece of information omitted from that sentence: “problems that are essentially more extreme versions of the challenges confronting city governments across the country run by the Democratic Party.” Though Republican cities are not immune to such problems, make no mistake that the very worst examples are cities run by the Democratic Party, most for a very long time (Detroit hasn’t had a Republican Mayor since 1962, Chicago since 1931), and most are in states with solid (if not overwhelming) Democratic Party majorities.

    The failure of America’s bankrupt cities is a microcosm of the failure of the Blue model of big government liberalism. And the reason I have spent so much time on covering California and Greece is that they are part of the same story: The failure of American liberalism is a microcosm of the bankruptcy of the welfare state, and the bankruptcy of the welfare state is a subset of the failure of socialism.

    The quandaries begin with Chicago’s dramatic social divide. To an even greater extent than is the case in, say, New York or Philadelphia, Chicago has become two entirely separate cities. One is a bustling metropolis that includes the Loop, Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile, and the Gold Coast, as well as the city’s well-to-do, working-class, and upwardly mobile immigrant neighborhoods. The other Chicago consists of impoverished neighborhoods on the far South and West Sides, primarily populated by African-Americans. These places have remained beyond the reach of the city’s recovery from the Great Recession.

    As we have known since Charles Murray’s Losing Ground in 1984, welfare programs don’t lift the poor out of poverty, but keep them ensnared in it. Indeed, a cynic might observe that welfare programs are designed to create a voting clientele for the welfare state and the liberal party that runs it.

    The problem, as Mark Steyn put it, is that “the 20th century Bismarckian welfare state has run out of people to stick it to. In America, the feckless insatiable boobs in Washington, Sacramento, Albany and elsewhere are screwing over our kids and grandkids. In Europe, they’ve reached the next stage in social democratic evolution: There are no kids or grandkids to screw over.”

    As Steyn further noted:

    A government big enough to give you everything you want isn’t big enough to get you to give any of it back. That’s the point Greece is at. Its socialist government has been forced into supporting a package of austerity measures. The Greek people’s response is: Nuts to that. Public sector workers have succeeded in redefining time itself: Every year, they receive 14 monthly payments. You do the math. And for about seven months’ work – for many of them the workday ends at 2:30 p.m. When they retire, they get 14 monthly pension payments. In other words: Economic reality is not my problem. I want my benefits. And, if it bankrupts the entire state a generation from now, who cares as long as they keep the checks coming until I croak?

    The story of Detroit’s current bankruptcy is the story of Chicago’s coming bankruptcy, and the similar problems of California. All are dealing with bloated public sector pensions that are making their cities insolvent. All promised and spent money they didn’t have against their decedents, not realizing (or not caring) that the debt burden will ruin the worlds of those decedents before they could ever pay it off.

    The theme with all is that deficit spending destroys, and the only cure is to force governments to pare back the welfare state and stop spending money they don’t have. As the example of Greece shows, there reaches a point in welfare state dependency at which actually curtailing welfare state spending, even at the point of financial ruin, is politically impossible. The looting of the public treasury cannot be stopped because that looting is the only thing that holds left-wing coalitions in power anymore.

    One of the many reasons the Tea Party exists is to hold American politician’s collective feet to the fire to make sure the terminal phase of the welfare state Greece is now enjoying never gets that bad in America. (To this end, they’ve had the tiniest little glimmer of success.)

    Chicago is Detroit is California is Greece is, eventually, America. It’s all part of the same story, and one any voting public ignores at its peril.

    (Hat tip: Instapundit.)

    Texas vs. California Update for April 2, 2105

    Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

    Time for another Texas vs. California roundup. The Texas House passed a budget, but I haven’t had a chance to look at it in any detail yet…

  • Unemployment rates in February: National average is 5.5%, Texas at 4.3%, California at 6.7%.
  • Even though hiring slowed to 7,100 new jobs in Texas in February, it was still the 53rd straight month of positive job creation, and Texas added 357,300 new jobs over the preceding 12 months.
  • A report from the Dallas Fed goes into more details.
  • California institutes mandatory water restrictions due to drought. California is indeed suffering a horrific drought, but it’s imposition of or acquiescence to idiotic environmental restrictions (see also: Delta Smelt) have made things much worse.
  • Some have proposed free market solutions to California’s water problems.
  • Workers comp abuse at LAPD/LAFD. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Add Richmond, California to the list of cities that have radically underfunded their public employee retirement plans. “The shortfall of $446 million works out to about $4,150 for every city resident.” (Ditto.)
  • San Bernardino reveals its bankruptcy deal with CalPERS. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Volokh the Younger examines the legal framework around the California rule (“not only that public employees are entitled to the pension they’ve accrued by their work so far, but also that they’re entitled to keep earning a pension (as long they continue in their job) according to rules that are at least as generous”), as well as its practical effects:

    The California rule distorts what the salary/pension mix would otherwise be, given employer and employee preferences, and given the tax code as it is. Because underfunded pensions are a popular form of deficit spending, public employee compensation may already be too pension-heavy, and the rule makes it more so by freezing pensions in times of retrenchment. The incentive effects of the rule, given the political economy of government employment, may well exacerbate this tendency. And the possible theoretical reasons for preferring a pension-heavy mix don’t go very far in justifying this particular distortion.

  • California runs out of room on death row. Maybe they could subcontract to Texas…
  • Fresno’s deputy police chief busted on drug charges.
  • Life Imitates a Joe R. Lansdale Story

    Monday, March 30th, 2015

    There’s a Joe R. Lansdale story called “The Pit” where two prisoners are forced to fight each other to death in a pit for sport. The story details suggest it takes place somewhere in the deep south. Who could have imagined that a real-life version of the story (thankfully minus the “to death” part) would take place in San Francisco?

    San Francisco sheriff’s deputy Scott Neu is accused of leading a ring of corrupt jail guards who coerced prisoners into gladiatorial combat with threats of rape and violence.

    Neu serves at County Jail No. 4 at 850 Bryant St despite having settled claims that he raped a woman prisoner and two transgendered prisoners while working at the jail. He sports a tattoo reading “850 Mob,” believed to describe the name used by the corrupt deputies to describe themselves. At least four other deputies are implicated in the program of sexualized torture.

    Snip.

    Neu and his co-conspirators gambled on the outcome of fights. One fight pitted the smallest inmate in the jail against the largest, and the fighters say they were threatened with rape and beatings by the guards if they didn’t spar. Neu is also said to have coerced prisoners into training for the fights with threats of rape and violence. Neu has a reputation for sadistic practices overall, including making prisoners gamble to receive their food, clothes and comfort items. Even when prisoners won the games Neu forced on them with the red dice and the deck of cards he carried, he would sometimes take away their “winnings” and give them to other prisoners.

    Well, just sounds like a lovely fellow all around, doesn’t he?

    Of course, these are just accusations, and Mr. Neu has not yet been proven guilty in a court of law. Maybe his attorney will offer up evidence of his innocence.

    The Deputies’ Union attorney Harry Stern claims the Public Defender is making a big deal out of nothing. He says that the prisoners were encouraged to “wrestle to settle disputes about who was stronger,” and were “encouraged” to work out. He dismissed the entire affair as “little more than horseplay.”

    Holy crap! When a guy’s defense attorney starts out essentially admitting the basic charge against him but dismissing it as “horseplay,” you’ve got to think the guy is guilty as sin.

    And he doesn’t even have the excuse of being in a “high stress, low pay” job since this is, after all, California. According to public records, Scott Neu pulled down a cool $150,912 in the 2012-2013 timeframe (and I’d bet more last year).

    Evidently paying unionized public employees more than the market demands doesn’t lead to a higher quality of employee…

    Texas vs. California Update for March 26, 2015

    Thursday, March 26th, 2015

    Time for another Texas vs. California roundup:

  • Forget all those snide liberal cracks about Texas’ public education system, since we have some of the highest graduation rates in the country.

  • “San Bernardino has defaulted on nearly $10 million in payments on its privately placed pension bond debt since it declared bankruptcy in 2012.”

    The missed payments illustrate the trend among cities in bankruptcy to favor payments to pension funds over bondholder obligations, which has increased the hostility between creditors and municipalities.

    San Bernardino declared last year that it intends under its bankruptcy exit plan to fully pay Calpers, its biggest creditor and America’s largest public pension fund with assets of $300 billion.

    The city continues to pay its monthly dues to Calpers in full, but has paid nothing to its bondholders for nearly three years, according to the interest payment schedule on roughly $50 million of pension obligation bonds issued by San Bernardino in 2005.

    If you’re a bank, a retirement fund, or a hedge fund, why on earth would you buy California municipal debt when there are safer alternatives? (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ Doom roundup.)

  • So how’s that San Francisco minimum wage law working out? Exactly like everyone who understands economics expected. “Some restaurants and grocery stores in Oakland’s Chinatown have closed after the city’s minimum wage was raised. Other small businesses there are not sure they are going to survive, since many depend on a thin profit margin and a high volume of sales.” Plus this: “Low-income minorities are often hardest hit by the unemployment that follows in the wake of minimum wage laws. The last year when the black unemployment rate was lower than the white unemployment rate was 1930, the last year before there was a federal minimum wage law.”
  • California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office suggests phasing out state health care for workers entirely.
  • California is dead last in spending transparency among the 50 states, with an F rating and a piddling score of 34. Texas ranks 13th with an A- and a score of 91. (Hat tip: Cal Watchdog.)
  • “North Texas gained an average of 360 net people per day from July 2013 to July 2014, a testament to the job-creating machine in the Lone Star state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau…North Texas and Houston were the only metropolitan areas to add more than 100,000 people during that one-year period.”
  • Just because California has some of the highest taxes in the nation doesn’t mean that the state’s Democratic legislature doesn’t want to add still more.
  • Meanwhile, the Texas Senate just passed a $4.6 billion tax cut.
  • California is rolling out more subsidies for Hollywood.
  • The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power not only has the highest employe costs in the country, it also ranks last in customer satisfaction. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • While Texas is certainly in much better shape than California on public employee pensions, things here are not entirely cloudless either. “The Texas Employee Retirement System is reporting unfunded liability of $14.5 billion in 2014, compared with liability of just $6.3 billion in 2013. By comparison, all of the state government’s general obligation debt as of 2013 was $15.3 billion. The Texas Law Enforcement and Custodial Officer Supplemental Retirement Plan is reporting unfunded liability of $673.1 million in 2014, compared with $306.7 million in 2013.”
  • Unlike California, Texas looks to get ahead of the curve on pension concerns with House Bill 2608, which restores control of pension funds to the local level by eliminating legislative approval for pension changes. I”nstead of locking up significant benefits in state statute, HB 2608 would allow city pension systems, like the Houston Firefighters’ Relief & Retirement Fund, to solve pension problems at the local level by changing benefit structures, if they so chose.”
  • “Support for the “bullet train” is ebbing across California, except, perhaps, in the Governor’s mansion.”
  • California raisin packer West Coast Growers files for Chapter 11.
  • American Spectrum Realty, a real estate investment management company that operates self-storage facilities under the 1st American Storage brand, has somehow managed to file for bankruptcy in both California and Texas. I think it’s safe to say that financial shenanigans are involved…
  • Lawsuit over misappropriated funds in a Napa Valley winery leads to a murder/suicide. It’s one of those stories that sounds too strange not to link to…
  • Scott Walker Signs Right-to-Work Bill Into Law in Wisconsin

    Monday, March 9th, 2015

    “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Monday signed into law a measure that prohibits requiring a worker to pay union dues, striking another blow against organized labor four years after the state effectively ended collective bargaining for public-sector employees.”

    National unions poured tens of millions into Wisconsin trying to defeat Walker, and only succeeded in making him stronger and losing worse than they would have otherwise.

    Wisconsin Assembly Passes Right-to-Work Legislation

    Friday, March 6th, 2015

    So it was foretold, and so it has come to pass.

    Wisconsin lawmakers voted Friday to make their state the 25th to enact right-to-work legislation, pushing a fast-tracked bill through the Assembly after an overnight debate and sending it on to Gov. Scott Walker for his promised signature.

    The Republican governor, a likely 2016 presidential candidate who rose to national prominence by taking on public-sector unions four years ago, plans to sign it Monday. Walker planned to be in Iowa for an agriculture summit on Saturday that’s attracting other likely Republican presidential candidates.

    The Assembly passed the bill 62-35 after a marathon session that included about 20 hours of debate. It was a straight party-line vote, with no Democrats backing the measure.

    You come at the king, you best not miss…

    Texas vs. California Update for February 26, 2015

    Thursday, February 26th, 2015

    Time for another Texas vs. California roundup:

  • CalPERS believes that it has police powers to seize property to sell to support public employee pensions. “It is hard to imagine a bigger or more blatant example of collusion between business interests and government employees at the expense of ordinary private citizens.” Plus the impossibility of maintaining the 7.5% returns necessary for the pension fund to remain solvent. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • CalPERS and CalSTARS want direct proxy access for candidates for corporate boards.
  • Speaking of CalSTARS, the cost of funding it going forward looms large on California’s horizon.
  • Stockton exits bankruptcy.
  • Daughters of Charity Health Systems sues the SEIU over interference in a merger deal.
  • Part of the demands from California’s liberal Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris to approve the merger include forcing currently Catholic hospitals to perform abortions.
  • It’s all but impossible for the Middle Class to live in Silicon Valley.
  • West coast port strike ends. Yet another reason to ship through Houston instead…
  • Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick files a bill for $4.6 billion in tax relief.
  • Texas Right to Work laws help keep the state prosperous, but more can be done.
  • Right-to-Work Bill Passes Wisconsin Senate

    Thursday, February 26th, 2015

    The passage of Right-to-Work legislation in the Republican-controlled senate is no surprise, but the quick, efficient manner they’ve done it in is gratifying.

    A right-to-work bill passed through the Wisconsin State Senate with a 15-17 majority and no amendments Wednesday as union-backing protesters gathered inside the Capitol building.

    The vote comes after a rushed Senate Labor Committee hearing Tuesday and upcoming State Assembly debates to come next week. If the bill passes, Wisconsin will join 24 other right-to-work states and would abolish laws making union dues mandatory, which critics say would dissolve private sector unions.

    Republican lawmakers unexpectedly announced on Friday they would take up the legislation in an extraordinary session to pass the bill as quickly as possible

    Majority Leader Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Wednesday at the Senate debate it is time for Wisconsin to modernize its economy to keep up with competing states in the Midwest. He said passing right-to-work legislation is a step toward this goal and toward individual freedom.

    Also: “Two gallery members interrupted Fitzgerald’s testimony to loudly express their opposition to right-to-work and as a result, Capitol Police escorted them out of the parlor. Senate President Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, warned gallery members another interruption would lead to the expulsion of the entire gallery.”

    It’s almost as if the ridiculous recall circus completely united the Republican majority against union bullying!

    Republicans hold a 63 to 36 edge in the Wisconsin Assembly, so Right-to-Work legislation should pass easily there and go on to a quick signature from Governor Walker.

    Nice job, Wisconsin union goons and left-wing allies! If you hadn’t alienated so many ordinary Wisconsinites with your embarrassing, hysterical temper tantrum, none of this would have been possible…