The same “me-first” perspective prevails across California state government unions. Even as California sinks ever-deeper into a fiscal quagmire, union bosses have tunnel vision: Their only priority seems to be to extract higher taxes from the much-maligned “rich” in order to keep the gravy train rolling. Not only does this approach overlook the fact that wealthy taxpayers are the most mobile (and can therefore most easily leave the state); it also ignores the manifold abuses of the system perpetrated routinely by far too many state government employees.
For example, recent reports in The Los Angeles Times revealed that California routinely cuts hefty six-figure checks to its workers when they retire, because state government managers routinely ignore official limits on government employees’ saved vacation time. Payroll records don’t even offer auditors the ability to detect how many state employees at the end of their careers simply stop working but continue to draw paychecks until their banked vacation time has been used up. What’s unclear is why those in government deem themselves exempt from the common sense rules of private sector workplaces – including the “use it or lose it” standard for vacation days.
Before government unions demand more taxes from the already-overtaxed workers in the private sector, perhaps union leaders should begin calling for the routine cost control and accountability measures that the private sector requires. Perhaps they, too, should start embracing reforms, from merit pay to meaningful performance review, aimed at ensuring that each state employee’s performance justifies his or her place on the state payroll. And perhaps they should start recognizing that their members are supposed to be serving the taxpayers of California – not the other way around. The many honest, hardworking state employees -- and the taxpayers who pay their salaries -- deserve no less.
If that day ever comes, no overhyped “state of emergency” protests will be necessary. A lean, productive, responsive state government is one that California taxpayers can, and will, gladly subsidize.