Now that February has arrived we are beginning to see some real action occurring in the Iowa House. We are beginning to pass a few bills, and rumors abound at the Capitol. One of the rumors that seems to have validity is that the Governor and the Democrat Majority are planning on doing something to weaken Iowa's 40-year-old "Right-to Work" law.
One way they are trying to soften resistance is by using the term "Fair Share" to describe what the bill will do. Their argument is that it is not fair for non-union members to reap the benefits of union negotiations without paying anything for it. The Republican response is the union has positioned itself to be the only arbitrator with management, and they deliberately claim all workers as opposed to just union members, because they have more clout by claiming greater numbers they represent. All amendments that were offered when this issue was before us two years ago which suggested non-union members be excluded from the benefits were rejected.
"Fair Share" isn't fair, it is a big union bailout and is forced unionism. It forces non-union employees to pay dues to an organization that not only do not belong but also one that may disagree substantially on political and social issues. Unions are failing to retain and grow membership on their own so they are turning to their political allies in the Legislature to save them. Why is organized labor so intent on pushing through forced unionism? The answer lies with the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS reported on January 28 that over the last 25 years union members has declined from 20.1 percent in 1983 to 12.4 percent in 2008. Under the so-called "Fair Share" legislation, public employee unions like AFSCME and ISEA would be able to garnish the wages on non-union government employees and non-union teachers. There are about 28,000 non-union public employees in Iowa. If forced union dues are conservatively estimated to be about $500 per year, then the unions stand to collect about $14 million for their political coffers if "Fair Share" is enacted. A representative from SEIU told the Des Moines Register this week that the forced union dues won't go to cover their costs associated with represented non-union members but instead will go to increased organizing and recruiting.
I recognize that unions have played an important role in achieving workers rights, however I do not believe in forcing people to join unions against their will.
IDALS Secretary Portrays Grim Impact of
Governor's Budget Cuts
On Tuesday, February 3, Agriculture Secretary Northey appeared before the Joint House-Senate Ag & Natural Resources Budget Subcommittee to share the likely impact of the Governor's 2010 budget recommendations. The Governor is recommending a general fund appropriation for IDALS of $19,889,064, which would be a reduction in appropriation of 9.7% from appropriated Fiscal Year 2009 level of $22,027,891. Secretary Northey commented that while his department has been able to cope with the Governor's 1.5% across-the-board cut by leaving vacancies unfilled, currently 35 positions, further substantial budget reduction for next year will require much tougher choices to terminate employees and to truncate existing agency operations.
According to the numbers presented by IDALS, employee compensation consumes aver 86% of IDALS, non EFF (Environment First Fund) appropriations. Since the average
Question of the Week
"Do you support making changes to the "Right-to-Work law?"
FTE cost for IDALS is $68,883, to accommodate the Governor's reduced appropriation to the department will require the termination of at least 47 FTE's in the upcoming year and would forfeit an estimated $1 million in federal cost-share funding. During discussion, it was mentioned that the agency must pay out accumulated vacation and sick pay upon termination in an amount that typically amounts to 4 to 6 months of pay. Hence, it is likely that IDALS will have to cut three positions to provide two positions worth of savings in FY 10.
Secretary Northey also took the opportunity to explain that a major reason for the difficult position of IDALS is that over the last ten years, state employee compensation for the department have risen at a rate almost 4 times faster than the general fund appropriation increase. According to materials submitted by IDALS to the Subcommittee, since FY 2000, IDALS work force has shrunk by 8% (426 to an estimate 391 FTEs) and if the Governor's budget recommendations are adapted the cumulative reduction in force will reach at least 19.75% (344 FTEs). During this period, state general fund appropriations grew 30.97% ($4,757,072,572 in FY 2000 to an estimated FY 2010 amount of $6,230,500) or annual growth rate of 3.1%. However, during the ten year period IDALS' general fund appropriation grew a total of 13.98% ($19,326,615 to $22,037,891) or 1.4% a year, the average FTE cost rose 53.65% or 5.4% a year ($44,830 to $68,883). While Secretary Northey was appreciative of the difficult budgetary bind that the state is in, and pledged to work with the legislators to make the best of a bad situation, he noted that virtually all of IDALS operations involve programs ensuring healthy food, healthy animals, consumer protection, and soil and water conservation efforts. He closed in requesting that if he needs to make this level of budget reduction, he will need legislation to eliminate Code required activities that the prospective budget will no longer allow him to accomplish.
House Republicans seek input from
Iowans on the budget
On Monday, February 2, Iowa House Republicans announced the launch of a new feature on the caucus website designed to encourage Iowans' input for budget savings. The page is located on www.iowahouserepublicans.com and is part of the Republicans' plan to bring more truth and transparency to Iowans. House Republicans have promised to dive into budgets to find waste and cost-saving measures. With this addition to our website, we're hoping Iowans will help us find ways to cut costs. This feature will be a useful tool for us, and it also allows Iowans to interact more closely with their government.
Last month, a group of Republicans filed the Iowa Taxpayer Transparency Act of 2009 which would develop a single, searchable website for Iowans to see how and where their taxpayer dollars were being spent. Republicans have also previously asked the governor to freeze spending on pork projects and review unfilled full-time employee positions as a way to reduce spending and balance the state budget. As of Tuesday, February 3, the website had over 1000 unique visitors and over 200 budget saving ideas. House Republicans will compile all of the ideas and present them to the budget subcommittees as the Legislature moves through the budget process this session.