How much should one be paid to be an office secretary? How much should one be paid to be road maintenance worker? How much should one be paid to be a health inspector, bus driver, school teacher, building inspector, mental health counselor or an attorney? As with all organizations, government is no different in that a large portion of its cost structure is found in employee compensation. To reduce expenses often means reducing head count. A department can delay capital expenses for a year or two, but it is unrealistic to ever imagine delaying employee compensation.
In the free market, the answer to the questions above are quickly found by the laws of supply and demand. Suppose I own a coffee shop. How much should I pay my employees to make espressos for customers? I would quickly figure this out by posting my job description with a wage and benefits package. If the compensation is too low, no one will apply or those who do are likely to be less skilled than I may need. If the compensation is too high then I will have more than enough qualified applicants to chose from but it will destroy my ability to make a profit and pay myself. Over time I will find the right balance between compensation and the skill set required to serve my coffee customers well and still make a profit.
In contrast, these market forces are completely absent from pubic union employee compensation. Public unions have "negotiated" with the government what each job is worth based on the previous negotiation — plus more. Built into the public union contract is better pay for those who have worked longer in the union. Also built into the contract is a very difficult process for dismissing a public union employee unless they commit an egregious act. So when comparing which system best reflects reality, the free market wins hands down. It pays employees what they are worth based on their skill and based on the supply and demand of the surrounding marketplace. On the other hand public employee compensation is based on tables, charts and lawyers that have no idea (and no care) what a particular job should cost.
Whenever the topic of unions arise, some people's feathers are ruffled in a hurry. To avoid hypertension and emotional outbursts, this blog will narrow its focus to discuss public unions. Public unions are unions that represent public (government) employees.
However, public unions create an inherent problem in government — a conflict of interest if you will: on one hand public unions are to represent the best interest of the government employees they serve. Public unions are to negotiate for the best wages, the best benefits and the best retirement package possible. On the other hand, the employees are employed by the government for the sole purpose to serve the citizens of their jurisdiction. So what happens when the wage, benefit and retirement package of public unions put at risk the government's ability to fulfill its obligations to the citizens? The answer is that the citizens are told that the government has a "shortfall in revenue" to meet its obligations and therefore the only answers are to increase revenue by raising taxes or to provide less service. The public union doesn't care which as long as they get their demands met.
Is it in the citizen's best interest that government continually cost more because public unions demand more for the government employees they represent? Is it in the citizen's best interest that government spend the same amount of money for few services because the public unions make each employee more expensive to employ? The obvious answer to both questions is no.
Tuesday night was a big night for Tom Mallams, Jim Bellet, Gail Whitsett and Doug Whitsett. All of these candidates won their respective primaries and are highly likely to see victory in the general election come November. In addition all of these candidate share something else in common — their public stance against the KBRA. Another way of looking at it is all of the candidates who favored the KBRA lost on Tuesday night.
This isn't a coincidence. This was almost predictable with a level of certainly close to 100%. The foundation for such a bold claim is the fact that time after time, when people are asked directly or are to choose candidates for or against KBRA, KBRA ends up on the losing side.
State Representative Girrard and Senator Whitsett's conducted a telephone poll in 2009 which showed under whelming support for the agreement. Dennis LInthicum's defeat of John Elliott in 2010 was based around whether KBRA was a good idea or not (Linthicum, against the KBRA, won). In 2011 there was the public hearing on the KHSA and KBRA where a margin of 3:1 were against both agreements. Finally, this year four more elections, with KBRA being a front-and-center issue, show us winners who believe that the KBRA is a bad idea.
As I've listened to various candidates, heard their radio ads, received their direct mail pieces and read their opt-ed pieces there is one item that defines them all — whether they believe the KBRA is a good or bad idea.
If a candidate is in favor of the KBRA, then you can pretty well bet that candidate is also for increasing the size and scope of government to solve problems. In order to meet this objective they will need to raise more revenue and that will come at the expense of the tax payer.
If a candidate is against the KBRA, then you can pretty well bet they are for limited government. They probably are more fiscally conservative want to spend tax dollars on fewer programs but do them well.
You know you must be making headway when:
If you are a registered Republican in Klamath County, you probably got one of these warm and fuzzy postcards over the weekend. The assertion made by this piece is that Tom Mallams is against agriculture in the Basin. Now anyone who knows or has ever heard Tom speak for more than two minutes would know how silly that idea is — if not laughable. Tom has been a rancher himself for many years. Before that he was a retail manager in Klamath Falls. Tom has enemies not because he is anti-business or anti-rancher, but because he is anti-KBRA.
In last Sunday's Herald and News, the Editorial Board picked their candidates: Kelley Minty Morris for Commissioner Position #1 and Todd Kellstrom for Commissioner Position #3. While we think it is fine for an editorial board to endorse candidates, the reasons why they chose these two is somewhat odd.
Apparently the Herald and News editorial board is hip on glitz and glamor and not so much on substance. The editorial board said their choices were filtered using the metrics of leadership and vision. Unfortunately the Herald and News didn't define what they meant by these terms. To me, someone showing these qualities would first understand government has no cost-containment structure. Matter of fact it's just the opposite. By its nature government is set up to always cost more each year for the same or fewer services. And those costs never align with inflation or tax receipts. Government wages, benefits and costs are in their own little world. Real leadership would involve fixing that problem whether people on the receiving end like it or not. Vision would involve making county government efficient and affordable for the people who live here, rather than giving businesses more and more reasons to leave.
The Herald and News only left us with this description to define their meaning, "Kelley Minty Morris, a hardworking campaigner with plenty of ideas, for Position #1..." Morris' web site explains how she is a former television broadcaster and manager for a well respected charity. Both of these are supposed to demonstrate qualities of leadership and vision.
Friday's Herald and News had questions and answers from the four Klamath County Commissioner Position #3 candidates. The question that grabbed the front page head-lines had to do with the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and asked why a candidate was for or against the agreement.
Both Cheyrl Hukill and Todd Kellstrom stated they were for the KBRA and gave their reasons. However, what is more important to understand are the principles used by Hukill and Kellstrom to build their answers. By understanding their principles, then one can predict how either one will behave given any kind of issue. Principles do not change with issues, but are consistent from one issue to the next. Without principles candidates waffle all over the place, saying almost anything that seems to gain them political favor.
Cheryl Hukill’s Comments:
In 2010 the Tea Party burst onto the political scene in amazing fashion. At that time the Democrat controlled House, Senate and White House was running rough shot over what the people clearly wanted — or didn't want. The Tea Party got its name from the Boston Tea Party. Both were in revolt to taxation or fiscal injustice. However just two years later it seems the Tea Party has lost its way, and that is mainly because it has a serious flaw.
The flaw of the Tea Party is putting preferences over principles.
While many in the Tea Party claim they are a principled group who want fiscal responsibility in government, this notion quickly comes to the test in the real world. My good friend, Mr. P. Henry, wrote about how Commissioner Switzer was essentially calling farmers "sissies" because ranchers and farmers couldn't take care of a task that their forefathers took for granted as part of the job. But the problem is much deeper. Whether one is talking about county funding for tourism, trapping or soil and water conservation — these are all preferences. There has yet to be a principled argument made why these (and several other items) should be paid for by government. If these items have real value, if they are indeed needed services, then those who benefit will surely pay for them out of their own pocket. But there is no principled reason why tax dollars collected from the general public should pay for them — only preferencial ones.
Today County Officials approved budgets for several items. One of those items was funding for the county trapper. The argument goes that without this important service provided by the county, agriculture will suffer.
I say horse-hockey.
Chuck Cleland is a nice fellow and a very skilled trapper. From what I hear he is well liked and takes special care to make sure he is courteous to people and at the same time tenacious to get his prey. Fantastic. But that has nothing to do whether the county should fund this activity. It also doesn't explain why the family living on Esplande or on Hope Street should pay for a county trapper. The idea is that if the county didn't provide this service, livestock would be killed and farmers would suffer. Again, I repeat, Horse-Hockey! Look, from what I know about farmers it's that they are very skilled at fixing problems one way or another. So when an unwanted coyote or mountain lion decides to show up, I can guarantee you the farmers I know, know how to fix that problem, without a county paid trapper. If for some reason they are unable to do this, then I see no reason why they couldn't pay for a private trapper to come do this for them. Look when I don't have time to change the oil in my car I don't expect the county government to collect taxes from everyone else in the county to pay for this service, I pay for it myself.
Today's Herald and News featured two articles about how rising tuition might lead to lower enrollment. Then at the same time the school is facing fewer and fewer dollars coming from Salem which means it is having to make tough choices to cut services and some personnel.
This is what the Herald and News and OIT call a budget shortfall.
As mentioned several times in this blog, budget shortfalls are caused by two things — not just one. When looking at budget one must look at the revenues and look at the costs. Both articles in Herald and News focused solely on the revenue side of the equation. The Herald and News was all to eager to report tragic news that state funding is decreasing for OIT and how that translated into higher tuition for students. Students are being told they need to bear a larger burder for their own education. Imagine that?! And yet each article was whisper quiet about ever-increasing rising costs (even when cutting jobs).