Center Opposes All Three Ballot Questions

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity urges Rhode Island voters to reject all three 2018 ballot bond questions as too costly, near-sighted, and overly geared toward special interests.

Question 1, the largest bond question, would put Rhode Island significantly further into debt by spending a whopping $250 million to repair school buildings (and would ask for another $250 million in 2020), and is also flawed because it:

  • Bails out irresponsible city/town and school officials who have misappropriated existing local tax receipts by neglecting to address school building repairs over the years.
  • Lacks any long-term vision or strategy in planning for the anticipated educational environments of the future.

“Of course, no one wants unsafe schools,” said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse, “but when we are talking about this much of a new burden on taxpayers, it is imperative that we are strategic in how we deal with this problem.”

More details on Question 1 below.

Question 2 asks taxpayers to fund $70 million in non-vital new higher education facilities that would mostly benefit other states, as far too many of our college and university graduates end up leaving the state in search of meaningful work. Until we develop a growing economy that can absorb new young workers entering the jobs market, this bond spending would not provide a good return on investment.

Question 3, an extension of the RhodeMapRI scheme, advances a dubious green-economy strategy by spending $47.3 million on a multitude of politically correct sustainable-development projects.

Special-Interest Government Spending Does Not Replace Grassroots Development. All three ballot questions are designed to help special-interest cronies. Because of Rhode Island’s dismal business climate, including a burdensome tax and regulatory structure, our state’s economy is not attracting enough grassroots private money for major capital projects. Instead, seeking work and dues from their employees and members, construction company insiders and labor union officials continually pressure government to spend taxpayer money on unnecessary public-works projects. Taxpayers also suffer a “double hit” because, unlike privately-financed projects, these government-funded boondoggles require abnormally high “prevailing wages” and mandate other costly pro-labor mandates.

Already Too Much in Debt. All three ballot questions would worsen an already burdensome debt problem. Historically, Rhode Islanders pass almost all bond questions that make it to the ballot, and no indications have emerged that this election will be any different.  If anything, consensus that the Ocean State’s public schools are in deplorable condition is translating into even-greater-than-usual consensus that we ought to saddle taxpayers with another $250–500 million in debt.

Broadly, Rhode Island is relying too heavily on debt to cover its bills.  The Mercatus Center at George Mason University puts Rhode Island’s long-term liabilities at 90% of the state’s assets, which is higher than the average state.[1]  Truth in Accounting’s State Data Lab gives Rhode Island a D for finances, with $8,288,881,000 in bonds and other liabilities, plus another $4,316,527,000 in pension and other retirement liabilities.[2]  A recent Rhode Island Public Expenditures Council (RIPEC) report finds Rhode Island already among the worst states when it comes to debt per capita and debt per income.[3]

More debt is not the answer to the Ocean State’s problems; it is a major problem in itself.  Adding $589,462,045 in principal and interest by passing the three ballot questions will make it worse.

The State of Rhode Island and its municipalities must be more prudent with the tax dollars they already collect — for example, prioritizing school-building maintenance over more frivolous projects.

More on Question 1. The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity agrees that our education infrastructure is in lamentable shape, but we encourage Rhode Islanders to vote to reject Question 1’s new borrowing on the ballot.

Wrong to “bail out” irresponsible local officials. Focusing on the biggest ballot question — the $250 million school construction bond — the incentives that it would create will be damaging, as well.  Making this money available to local school districts that have been negligent in maintaining their infrastructure will only reinforce their habit of letting basic maintenance slide in order to fund other priorities, like above-market-rate increases to government worker compensation.  The legislation allowing these bonds to go on the ballot provides insufficient incentive for our cities and towns to change their ways. Further, it is unfair to ask state taxpayers to bail out local communities.

What do the “education futurists” say? Taking an even broader view, we should also question the wisdom of making these massive investments when our society is changing so quickly.  What will education look like 20 years from now?  What sorts of spaces will students require?  The weight of debt will hinder Rhode Island’s ability to adapt and to innovate in the future.

The Center does not believe it is prudent to burden Rhode Islanders with decades of new debt in order to rebuild an arguably obsolete, century-old school model, especially when new educational-environment models are rapidly evolving.

Many “education futurists” no longer envision that large and cold school buildings with walled-off classrooms will be how our children will be taught in the coming years. Creating more-productive learning environments that take advantage of ever-evolving Internet and other technologies could mean that home-based or large online-lecture type instruction may increasingly become the norm. This educational vision would require a far different kind of school campus than what this half-a-billion taxpayer-funded bond might be wasted on.

The Center is not aware of, but is open to review, any kind of long-term strategic educational plan that would justify massive investment in a potentially soon-to-be defunct school model.

In recognition of National Employee Freedom Week (Aug 19 - 25), and despite the state's attempt to shield public employees from becoming aware of their rights, we have launched our My Pay My Say RI public awareness campaign and our MyPayMySayRI.com website to educate about public employees rights.

Center Launches “My Pay My Say RI” Campaign to Inform Public Employees of Their Restored Rights

Government Unions and Political Cronies Seek to Keep Public Servants in the Dark

Public Education Will Be Biggest Beneficiary!

Many have already opted out!

Providence, RI – In recognition of National Employee Freedom Week (Aug 19 – 25), and despite the state’s attempt to shield public employees from becoming aware of their rights, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity today launched its My Pay My Say RI public awareness campaign on its MyPayMySayRI.com website.

The campaign is designed to inform public servants of their recently restored first Amendment rights, as ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Janus v AFSCME case. A consistent champion of constitutional rights for all citizens, the Center believes public employees deserve to know that they now have full freedom when it comes to deciding whether or not it is in their best interest to pay union dues; and that they cannot be recriminated against if they choose to leave. Prior to the Janus ruling, all state and municipal employees in Rhode Island were forceed to pay their government-designated unions as a condition of employment.

However, the Supreme Court has decided that because it is their pay, union membership – or not – is rightfully the say of every public worker; especially when workers may disagree with their union’s political advocacy, which is paid for with their dues money.

Case in point is Michelle, a municipal employee in the Ocean State, who opted-out right after the Janus ruling and who said: “I don’t understand why some of my friends continue to pay their dues despite their political views being completely opposite of what the union supports.”

The Center has partnered with the $10 million national education and outreach campaign, My Pay My Say, to launch a customized Rhode Island initiative. “Despite the governor’s and the unions’ efforts to keep public employees in the dark, our Center and our national partner have already accumulated tens of thousands of email and mailing addresses of government workers. We expect to contact them in the coming weeks and ongoing for years,” said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “We have raised enough money to fund phase I of our campaign, which will include thousands of direct mail pieces. The more money we raise, the more awareness we can create.”

The Center believes that public education will be the greatest beneficiary of the Janus ruling. Because unions can no longer force teachers who disagree with them to fund bargaining positions that tie the hands of educators, teachers will be empowered with a stronger voice to fight against ineffective policies.

The MyPayMySayRI.com website includes educational information for public employees, with a dedicated section for teachers, and will soon include information on the political spending of certain government unions. The website also includes a page for workers to tell their story if they have unsuccessfully tried to leave their union or have received unsatisfactory responses to inquiries of their employer or union officials.

“We respect each person’s right to make an informed decision. It’s unfortunate that unions and their government allies do not,” added Stenhouse. “Based on history in right-to-work states, unions will go to great lengths to obfuscate the truth and make it as difficult as possible for workers to exercise their rights. We have already been contacted by workers who were brushed aside when making honest inquiries about the Supreme Court ruling.”

The website further includes links to an opt-out page where an official letter, requesting exit from the individual’s specific union, can be automatically created and printed, as well as links to a page where individuals can indicate that they choose to remain in their union.

The Center’s multi-year ‘worker freedom’ campaign in the Ocean State had a soft-launch in July and, already, many public employees have opted to leave their union, deciding to keep more of their paychecks for their own families. Ongoing, the My Pay My Say RI campaign will include email, direct mail, traditional and digital advertising, as well as other outreach vehicles.

For more information visit the MyPayMySayRI.com website or follow us on Twitter at @MyPayMySayRI.

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity has submitted a public comment on the proposed change to prevent portions of Medicaid payments to third parties for benefits. This change would have dramatic results on the home care unionization rule.

Center Submits Public Comment On Rule Change To Protect The Home Care Industry From Attempted Unionization

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity has submitted a public comment on the proposed rule that would remove a state’s ability to reassign portions of Medicaid payments to third parties for benefits such as health insurance, skills training, and other benefits customary for employees. 

From: “no-reply@regulations.gov” <no-reply@regulations.gov>
To: mstenhouse@rifreedom.org
Sent: 8/6/2018 12:24:20 PM
Subject: Your Comment Submitted on Regulations.gov (ID: CMS-2018-0090-0001)

Regulations LogoYour comment was submitted successfully!

Comment Tracking Number: 1k2-94p4-ty5d

Agency: Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services (CMS)

Document Type: Rulemaking
Title: Medicaid Program: Reassignment of Medicaid Provider Claims: CMS-2413-P
Document ID: CMS-2018-0090-0001

Comment:
The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, a 501-C-3 public policy think tank in Rhode Island, respectfully submits comment in support of the proposed rule that would remove the regulatory text at 42 CFR 447.10(g)(4) that allows a state to reassign portions of a provider’s payment to third parties for benefits such as health insurance, skills training, and other benefits customary for employees.

Our comment uses as an example a real-life scenario made possible by 2018 Rhode Island legislation that was signed into law earlier this year … allowing for attempted unionization of the home care industry. This private industry in our state, which now successfully provides vital services, could be decimated.

This proposed Medicaid Provider Reassignment Regulation Proposed Rule, would mean that the government can no longer aid unions in their attempt to skim dues from precious Medicaid dollars, intended for the care of our loved ones.


In Rhode Island, about 7500 or so private home care workers are already represented by about 45 private-employer agencies as well as by a statewide association, the RI Partnership for Homecare. These service providers do not consider themselves to be government workers and most of these workers do NOT want to become a quasi-government employee.

The Rhode Island Partnership for Home Care, which oversees most of these private agencies, believes that government-run home care would destabilize the industry.
It is also morally unjust that federal dollars, earmarked for home care services, could have dues automatically siphoned-off by state government unions from workers’ paychecks, then transferred to the unions, with some of the funds ending-up in the political campaign coffers of SEIU. If the proposed rule is enacted, it would be just and proper that 100% of the allocated federal funding for home care services should first go to the workers; and it would then be up to the unions to collect dues – on their own – from those who freely choose to join.Earlier this summer, after a major push by SEIU and other progressive activists, legislation that had been on the back burner was rammed through Rhode Island’s General Assembly and signed by the Governor. This new law could transfer control of the home care services industry from the private sector to the government and its union allies. This proposed rule, by removing the government as its potential partner, would create less of an incentive for SEIU to attempt to unionize this industry.At the same time, the burden on state taxpayers would rise, as the government would surely provide frivolous and unnecessary benefits to allow unions to offer a more compelling reason to unionize.

The new law in Rhode Island seeks to lure home care workers, most of whom are now employed under a successfully operating private ‘agency’ system, to register with the government, becoming quasi-public employees, with their names and other personal information then to be turned over to SEIU labor bosses for the purposes of unionization efforts. A very similar approach was taken in 2013 to unionize the home child care industry; since then, union negotiated – and taxpayer funded – costs to support this industry have since risen dramatically.

This new Rhode Island law is a blatant money and power grab by unions that would crush a smoothly performing private agency system that is providing high quality home care to elderly, Medicaid, and other patients; and essentially turn over control of this industry to overly politicized and incompetent government bureaucrats. The training standards and strict oversight now required of nursing and other home care professionals would be greatly diminished.

Implementation of this proposed federal rule would remove the likelihood that government could insert itself between patients and their home care service providers.

The Center also points out how implementation of this proposed rule would create additional synergy with the direction that the nation is now heading, following landmark Janus decision, which would end the forced unionization and fee payments by public employees. As our country moves towards more freedom and less governmental control over our lives, Americans are experiencing renewed levels of prosperity. Enactment of this rule would maintain this momentum by keeping our state’s home care industry smoothly running under private management and away from the inefficiencies of the political elite and their special-interest allies.

Center Warns of Litigation in Effort to Unionize Home Care Professionals

Government and Unions Must Comply with New Legal Realities

As nation moves toward freedom, Rhode Island seeks to increase government control over our lives

Political Money & Power Grab by Unions Would Threaten Patient Safety

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 26, 2018

Providence, RI – The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity warns SEIU and the state government that it could face legal peril if they do not fully comply with the new federal restrictions expected to be in place this fall, as it pertains to the attempted unionization of the home care industry.

“The landmark Janus decision by the US Supreme Court, combined with the expected implementation of the Medicaid Provider Reassignment Regulation Proposed Rule by the federal government, means public employees can no longer be forced to support the political agenda of their designated union. It also means the government can no longer aid unions in their attempt to skim dues from precious Medicaid dollars, intended for the care of our loved ones.” explained Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center.

Stenhouse, earlier this month, attended a national symposium in Washington, DC, where it was highlighted that many legal organizations are actively looking for precedent-setting lawsuit cases if unions or their government allies do not comply with the new restrictions on how government unions may collect dues.

Outrageously, in the past and for now, federal dollars earmarked for home care services, could have dues automatically siphoned-off by the state government unions from workers’ paychecks, then transferred to the unions, with some of the funds ending-up in the political campaign coffers of SEIU. If the proposed rule is enacted, 100% of the allocated home care funding must first go to the workers; and it would then be up to the unions to collect dues – on their own – from those who freely choose to join.

“It’s a whole new ballgame,” continued Stenhouse. “And history has demonstrated in other states, unions and their bought-and-owned politician friends, will seek to bend the rules to their advantage. However, many of us are now on watch, and doing so could lead to serious legal ramifications.”

Earlier this summer, after a major push by SEIU and other progressive activists, legislation  was rammed through the General Assembly and signed by the Governor, that would transfer control of the home care services industry from the private sector to the government and its union allies.

The legislation would seek to lure home care workers, most of whom are now employed under a successfully operating private ‘agency’ system, to register with the government, becoming quasi-public employees, with their names and other personal information then to be turned over to SEIU labor bosses for the purposes of unionization efforts. A very similar approach was taken in 2013 to unionize the home child care industry; since then, union negotiated – and taxpayer funded – costs to support this industry have risen dramatically.

The Rhode Island Partnership for Home Care, which oversees most of these private agencies, believes that government-run home care would destabilize the industry.

“This is a blatant money and power grab by unions that would crush a smoothly performing private agency system that is providing high quality home care to elderly, Medicaid, and other patients; and essentially turn over control of this industry to overly politicized and incompetent government bureaucrats,”said Stenhouse in June. “The training standards and strict oversight now required of nursing and other home care professionals would be greatly diminished. Why would we want to put government in between patients and their home care service providers?”

The Center also pointed out the incongruity of this legislation and the direction that the nation is heading, following landmark Janus decision, which would end the forced unionization and fee payments of public employees. “Once again, while America is moving towards more freedom and less governmental control over our lives, Rhode Island wants to move in the opposite direction, consolidating centralized-control and planning under the political elite and their special-interest allies,” concluded Stenhouse.

The Janus case could provide right-to-work protection for all public employees in the country. Right-to-work means a union cannot get a worker fired for not paying dues or fees.

STATEMENT: Center Applauds SCOTUS Ruling on Janus case; Public Education to Benefit

More Worker Freedom From Janus Case Will Lead to Reduction in Union Power

Public Education Should be Greatest Beneficiary of Janus Case

Providence, RI — According to the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, today’s landmark decision in the Janus case, which grants workplace freedom to public employees, means that public unions will have significantly less power and money to block legislation and influence elections. “The greatest public benefit will be improvement in public education,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “Many education reforms that would improve schools in disadvantaged communities are prevented by union collective bargaining agreements. If unions are no longer able to force teachers who disagree with them to fund their bargaining positions, unions will have less power to impose ineffective policies into contracts.”

#WorkerFreedom

The Center opposes legislation that would lead to the unionization of the home care industry. If enacted, the safety of patients would be put at risk, while Rhode Island families and businesses would be forced to pay higher taxes to support exorbitant union demands.

Center Opposes Legislation to Force Unionization of Home Care Professionals

Political Money & Power Grab by Unions Would Threaten Patient Safety

Citizens concerned about the care of their loved ones can contact their lawmakers online

Forced SEIU unionization would fly in the face of expected U.S. Supreme Court ruling

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 19, 2018

Providence, RI – The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity opposes legislation that would lead to the unionization of the home care industry, against the will of the nurse assistants and other professionals currently providing services to home-based patients. If enacted, the safety of patients would be put at risk, while Rhode Island families and businesses would be forced to pay higher taxes to support exorbitant union demands.

Outrageously, some of these higher taxes, intended for home care services, would be siphoned-off by unions, and will end-up in the political campaign coffers of SEIU.

According to the Center’s sources, H7803 may soon be resurrected from its “held for further study” status and will be re-considered following a major push by SEIU and other progressive activists who are seeking to give government control over the home care services industry. S2734 Sub-A was passed by the entire Senate in late May.

The legislation would force all home care workers, most of whom are employed under a successfully operating private ‘agency’ system, to register with the government, becoming quasi-public employees, with their names and other personal information then to be turned over to SEIU labor bosses for the purposes of unionization efforts. A very similar approach was taken in 2013 to unionize the home child care industry; since then, union negotiated – and taxpayer funded – costs to support this industry have risen dramatically.

Concerned citizens are requested to support an online ‘contact your lawmaker’ drive against the legislation, spurred by the Rhode Island Partnership for Home Care, which believes that government-run home care would destabilize the industry.

“This is a blatant money and power grab by unions that would crush a smoothly performing private agency system that is providing high quality home care to elderly, Medicaid, and other patients; and essentially turn over control of this industry to overly politicized and incompetent government bureaucrats,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “The training standards and strict oversight now required of nursing and other home care professionals would be greatly diminished. Why would we want to put government in between patients and their home care service providers?”

The Center also points out the incongruity of this legislation and the direction that the nation may soon be taking, following next week’s expected U.S. Supreme Court decision in the landmark Janus case, which would end the forced unionization and fee payments of public employees. “Once again, while America is moving towards more freedom and less governmental control over our lives, Rhode Island wants to move in the opposite direction, consolidating centralized-control and planning under the political elite and their special-interest allies,” warned Stenhouse.

Progressive lawmakers are once again seeking to hand out “free stuff”, this time to wealthy-out of staters, in a misguided attempt to bribe them to move to Rhode Island. The legislation, House bill H8018 is an extension of the state’s failed corporate welfare strategy.

Progressive Land of Make Believe Bad Bill of the Week: $10K Pays The Way (H8018)

Progressive lawmakers are once again seeking to hand out “free stuff”, this time to wealthy-out of staters, in a misguided attempt to bribe them to move to Rhode Island. The legislation, House bill H8018, has been named the “Progressive Land of Make Believe Bad Bill of the Week” by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, and is an individual-level extension of the state’s failed corporate welfare strategy.

“If we have to pay families, students, and businesses to move to or remain in Rhode Island, to survive our state’s oppressive tax and regulatory climate, then something is very wrong,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “Worse than the obvious face-value inanity of the bill, the ignorant belief of how an economy and family dynamics actually work is what is most troubling. The legislation openly acknowledges the negative economy in our state, yet, as with other progressive policies, it tries to band-aid the symptom rather than cure the core illness. ”

Dubbed by the Center as the #10kPaysTheWay Act, the legislation, sponsored by Representative Carlos Tobon, a progressive-Democrat from Pawtucket, pretends that taxpayer funded government hand-outs would be incentive-enough for upper-middle income people to relocate their lives to the Ocean State. It is the false premise of the progressive ideology that more government dependency is what people want; in this case, in desperate hope of increasing our state’s population so as to avoid losing one of its two U.S House of Representative seats after the 2020 national census is tabulated.

While it is unclear how much of a population increase Rhode Island might need to preclude losing a Congressional seat, the legislation seeks to pay up to 30,000 new families. The cost to state taxpayers for this program, estimated at $300 Million, at the proposed handout rate of $10,000 per family … but only to wealthier families that make over $100,000 per year.

There are so many make-believe assumptions underlying this bill that do not exist in the real world, that it is difficult to know where to begin to enumerate them:

  • Families have left Rhode Island not because of deficient government programs, but because of sub-standard job and educational opportunities. Until we can break away from the self-imposed budgetary constraints and special interest influences that impede reforms in our state, Rhode Island’s bottom-10 business climate and family prosperity rankings, will continue to make Rhode Island a relatively inhospitable place to build a career and raise a family.
  • This regressive ‘wealthy-welfare’ scheme is unfair.  Not only would all current Rhode Island residents, including low-income families, be taxed more so that wealthy out-of-state families can be given our money, but those in-state families that have worked hard to become successful will receive nothing. This is similar to how existing Ocean State businesses have to pay for corporate tax credit handouts to other companies, often their own competitors.
  • People not want to be dependent on government. Current and would-be Rhode Islanders want to live productive, soul-fulfilling, self-sufficient, and prosperous lives … even though progressives like to pretend this that more government programs define success.
  • A government hand-out is not enough to overcome the “long-term and short-term negative economic trends” that the legislation itself admits are currently plaguing our state. Already damaged by too many current job-killing progressive policies, more progressive policies cannot possibly make our state more attractive to families and entrepreneurs.
  • Rhode Island’s population would not likely increase. As with most tax schemes, progressives pretend that there will be no adverse economic impact or other unintended consequence to their simple-minded and purely emotional-based policies. In the real world, tax policy drives behavior. In this case, the increased taxes that will be heaped on every family and business will cause even more people to flee our state.
  • Most importantly, progressives pretend that the obvious solution to Rhode Island’s economic and population stagnation is not staring them directly in the face. Proving that the theoretical benefits of the tax and regulatory reductions that our Center have espoused since its inception in 2011, and which is the foundation of conservative economic policy, the recently implemented federal tax and regulatory reductions have led to unprecedented economic optimism and renewed economic growth across America.

Similarly, if Rhode Island were to abandon its government-centric corporate-welfare and wealthy-welfare agenda, and instead start working on creating a reality-based and improved economic climate, where businesses and families can thrive on their own and without costly government assistance, the Ocean State might soon be able to regain the Congressional seat that progressive policies have likely already doomed us to lose.

Once again unions are pushing for legislation that would give them even more leverage when it comes to negotiating Collective Bargaining Agreements for government workers. House bills 7198, 7633, and 7634 would grant all or some public employee unions underhanded perpetual contracts.

Progressive Land of Make Believe Bad Bill of the Week: Perpetual Contracts

They’re back!

Once again unions are pushing for legislation that would give them even more leverage when it comes to negotiating Collective Bargaining Agreements for government workers.

House bills 7198, 7633, and 7634 would grant all or some public employee unions an unfair advantage by keeping in place all existing collective bargaining provisions until a new contract has been agreed to by the parties – we call these “perpetual contracts” … and thus these three bills qualify as our “Progressive Land of Make Believe Bad Bills of the Week”.

In recent years, government worker unions and progressives have banded together to promote a centralized-government-control and high tax political environment. These bills exemplify this relatively new union-progressive partnership.

In living in this fantasy world of perpetual contracts, unions would never have to bargain in good faith, even in the worst of possible economic times, as they would be able to just sit back and continue to reap in their overly-generous benefits. In other words, your local taxes could never ever go down.

But wasn’t this issue decided last year? Yes it was. Despite the opposition from dozens of mayors and town leaders, the union-controlled House and Senate passed perpetual contract legislation in 2017. Thankfully, Governor Raimondo, who understands the real world when it comes to this issue, seemingly put the issue to rest by vetoing the perpetual contracts legislation.

But, the Rhode Island perpetual contracts legislation is back again this year! Why? What has changed?

In my opinion, unions are increasingly worried about how they will preserve their power, if the US Supreme Court rules against them in the Mark Janus case, which was heard by the Supremes in late February. In the expected June decision, the Supreme Court could grant government employees – such as teachers, police, and firefighters – the freedom to choose whether or not they can be compelled to join a union or pay union fees. Right now, public employee unions enjoy a negotiating monopoly and can force workers to financially support the unions’ political agenda.

Conventional wisdom believes the Supreme Court will rule against the union position. But what does this have to do with perpetual contracts? As it turns out … a lot.

Under one speculated Supreme Court ruling scenario, designed to lessen the financial impact on unions, forced dues and fees might be allowed to continue for those government workers under an existing collective bargaining contract. And that such employees could only opt-out once those existing contracts expire. But if contracts are “perpetual” – and would never therefore expire – then employees would never have the chance to opt out.

This means unions could continue to force people to have dues and fees automatically deducted from their paychecks.

This is a brilliant, yet devious maneuver. And this is how unions and their political cronies in statehouses across the country work: Finding every possible way to continue to extract money from taxpayers – and their own members – so that their financial and political power can be maintained.

As taxpayers and voters, everyone of us should be outraged that unions, and their legislative friends, conspire to devise such underhanded ways to pre-emptively evade what might be a landmark Supreme Court decision.

In our state’s progressive land of make believe, there is little doubt that the House and Senate, spurred by the desperation of public employee unions, will once again pass and send “perpetual contracts” legislation to the Governor’s desk.

It’s an election year, and the political pressure on her will be enormous, but once again, we must hope that the Governor, rooted in reality, will not be fooled or persuaded by this overt money grab by unions.

The Janus case could provide right-to-work protection for all public employees in the country. Right-to-work means a union cannot get a worker fired for not paying dues or fees.

Janus Public Policy Backgrounder

Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31

Mackinac Center for Public Policy Backgrounder

F. Vincent Vernuccio and Patrick Wright

WHAT IS THE JANUS CASE?

Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31 is a case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court filed by Mark Janus and two other Illinois state workers. If the justices rule in favor of Janus, the decision could:

  • Provide right-to-work protection for all public employees in the country. Right-to-work means a union cannot get a worker fired for not paying dues or fees.

BACKGROUND

All workers, whether they are in a right-to-work state or not, have the right to leave their union.

In non-right-to-work states like Rhode Island, however, employees can only opt out of paying the political portion of their dues, and many unions require them to submit paperwork to this effect annually. These workers are called “agency fee payers.”

Unions charge agency fee payers close to the same amount they charge regular members for dues. In California, for example, teachers are required to pay around 70 percent of their dues as agency fees, and in other states this amount can be even higher.

For most labor unions in Rhode Island, the amount of agency fees is left to each union and employer to negotiate, but they are often equal to dues. The exception to this contract-by-contract flexibility is for employees of the state, who are required by law to pay agency fees equal to dues even if they do not join their respective unions (RIGL 36-11-2). Rhode Island is one of only three states in the country that requires agency fees for state employees.

The right not to pay for a union’s political agenda through dues comes from the Abood v. Detroit Board of Education case, where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public sector workers have a First Amendment right not to be forced to pay for union politics. Private sector workers are granted the same right through a different court decision.


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Many states give government unions a monopoly over representation. The Abood case allowed unions to force all workers covered by the collective bargaining agreement to pay for the expenses incurred for representation, regardless of whether the employee wanted such representation or not. The argument in Abood was that, if workers were given a choice, an insufficient number of them would offer financial support to the union, making it difficult for the union to bargain effectively on their behalf.

As of 2018, workers in 27 states can exercise right-to-work rights and are not forced to pay dues or fees to the union organized in their workplace. In right-to-work states, however, only about 20 percent of unionized workers exercise these rights, meaning that unions in these states still have the financial support of about 80 percent of workers, on average. This suggests that the fears that rationalized the Abood decision were likely overstated.

Similar Rhode Island Case

In the Ocean State, five police officers in the town of Westerly sued the city over a requirement that they pay almost 15% of their salaries to the local union. The Stephen Hopkins Center for Civil Rights, a Rhode Island–based nonprofit legal entity, litigated this case to defend non-union reserve police officers from being forced to contribute $5.00 of their $35.00 hourly pay to the union local.

Hopkins Center chairman Giovanni Cicione writes: “This was foisted on them without their consent, and these good public servants, many of whom are part-timers and retirees, are being forced to subsidize an organization they do not support and from which they receive no benefits.”

MAIN ARGUMENTS OF JANUS

Mark Janus and the other plaintiffs are asking the Supreme Court to overturn the Abood decision. They argue collective bargaining in the public sector is inherently political, and government unions devote more resources to their political agendas than just the small portion of dues that goes to directly support political candidates or causes.

On its Web page for a similar case covering teachers, the Center for Individual Rights explains, “Whether the union is negotiating for specific class sizes or pressing a local government to spend tax dollars on teacher pensions rather than on building parks, the union’s negotiating positions embody political choices that are often controversial.” Therefore, the plaintiffs say that by being forced to fund collective bargaining, they are being forced to fund political activity they might not necessarily agree with.

MAIN POINTS

  • Government workers would still be able to remain in their unions, and those unions would still be able to collectively bargain. Janus would simply give workers a choice and prevent them from being fired for not paying a union.
  • Giving workers a choice can make unions stronger. Unions would need to prove their worth to their membership, giving members better representation and more-responsive leadership.
  • All collective bargaining by government unions is inherently political. Workers have a First Amendment right not to be forced to pay for political spending they disagree with. Therefore, workers should not be forced to support government unions.
  • Unions should not have the power to get workers fired for exercising their First Amendment rights.
  • While the case would essentially mean right-to-work for public employees across the country, practically it would only apply to the 22 states in which government workers are not already right-to-work and paying agency fees.
  • Only about 20 percent of workers in right-to-work states exercise their rights, so the practical effect of the case will likely only affect about 20 percent of government workers in the 22 states that do not already provide these rights to workers.

KEY DATES

February 26, 2018 — The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Friedrichs case

End of June 2018 — Likely decision by the court

About the Authors

F. Vincent Vernuccio is Director of Labor Policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
Patrick Wright is the Mackinac Center’s Vice President for Legal Affairs Affairs and authored the Center’s two briefs in the Friedrichs case.
The Mackinac Center is located in Midland,
Michigan.

 

As the poster child of their desire for government-control over the lives of residents and businesses, Rhode Island's progressive-Democrats announced they will introduce legislation this week to establish an estimated $13.2 billion single-payer health insurance system.

Single-Payer Healthcare: “Progressive Land of Make Believe Bad Bill of the Week”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 25, 2018

Single-Payer Healthcare Scheme Based on “Make Believe” Assumptions

Progressive Economist Estimates $3.7 Billion in New Costs; Center Estimates at $5.4 Billion. Would Bankrupt the State.

Providence, RI — The legislative onslaught from the left has begun. As the poster child of their desire for government-control over the lives of residents and businesses, Rhode Island’s progressive-Democrats announced they will introduce legislation this week to establish an estimated $13.2 billion single-payer health insurance system.

Tabbed as the “Progressive Land of Make Believe Bad Bill of the Week” by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, the legislation is based on non-realistic assumptions, and would impose additional costs of $5.4 billion upon taxpayers, ratepayers, and businesses according to a report issued last summer by the Center.

“Imagine a new tax that takes massive amounts of more money out of your paycheck; imagine reduced access to critical care for your sick child; imagine lower public funding for schools; and imagine more business and jobs fleeing our state,” said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “This is why no other state in the nation has has ever passed such radical legislation. It would bankrupt our entire state.”

The House (H7285) and Senate (S5069) versions of the bills will be sponsored by Representative Aaron Regunberg and Senator Jeanine Calkin, repsectively.

Supporters of the bill make the ‘fake’ claim that healthcare is “a fundamental human right.” Nothing can be a right if somebody else is forced to pay for it or provide it. Conversely, ‘real’ rights are based on liberty, not coercion, and do not infringe on anyone else’s rights.


Rhode Islanders need a credible alternative to the status quo and its destructive progressive ideas. You can help.

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The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is the Ocean State’s leading voice against the wreckage caused by our state’s progressive agenda.

As the state’s leading research organization, advancing family and business friendly values… the mission of our Center is to make Rhode Island a better place to call home – to raise a family and to build a career.

While progressives value government-centric, taxpayer-funded dependency… our Center believes in the value of hard work and the free-enterprise system.

We understand that in order for more Rhode Island families to have a better quality of life, that more and better businesses are needed to create more and better jobs.

Your donation will help us fight the union-progressive movement and, instead, advocate for pro-family, pro-business policies and values.

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The legislation, which its supporters call “Medicare for all,” also makes believe it is something that it is not. The legislation is actually a “Medicaid for all” scheme, which even national progressives such as Bernie Sanders have admitted, if implemented across the U.S., “would bankrupt the nation”.

Knowing they cannot call it what it really is, the dishonest supporters of the bill falsely instead compare their planned government takeover of the health insurance industry to “Medicare”. They further pretend that there is no difference between the funding mechanisms of Medicaid and Medicare. Medicare is a system whereby enrollees have paid into to the system for decades over the course of their careers, essentially using their own own pot of money to purchase the insurance of their choice as they become senior citizens. Medicaid, like the legislation introduced, is paid for by state and federal taxpayers each year.

Rhode Island’s existing Medicaid system is heavily dependent on federal funding. The proposed “Medicaid for all” legislation, which goes against the direction that the federal government is going, would receive zero federal funding … and cannot possibly be sustained by state households and businesses.

In this regard, supporters of this socialized-medicine plan also falsely compare the proposed legislation to Canada’s healthcare system. Nations can run deficits and print money when costs inevitably rise and exceed planned budgets. US States must operate under balanced budgets and cannot add to the money supply and therefore, must resort to higher taxes or reduced services via so-called “death panels”.

Further, with no limit on how high taxes might go, and with the government mandating which coverage is available, enrollees will be left with high taxes and no choice. Conversely, under Medicare, private insurers are allowed to create and market various health insurance products.

If similar to last year’s version, the bill would likely lead to another government-created economic and human rights disaster, as happened with government-run UHIP and DCYF programs. A newly created bureaucracy would automatically register residents in government healthcare and would collect new payroll taxes. The scheme would also set prices for all doctors and other healthcare providers and would forbid private insurers from offering competing products. In short only government-approved plans would be allowed.

The legislation also makes believe that its massive multi-billion price tag could somehow be shouldered by already overtaxed households and businesses. Rhode Island’s already dismal business and consumer climate would become worse.

Bankruptcy-Level Costs: In 2015, the same progressive economist cited as an expert by Regunberg and Calkin in their media release, University of Massachusetts at Amherst Professor Gerald Friedman, published a report estimating the potential effects of a single-payer healthcare system in Rhode Island. Friedman gained notoriety in 2016 for his economic analysis supporting the economic plan of Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders, which suggests that any bias in his analysis of single-payer health care would be toward making its outcomes look better, rather than worse. Friedman’s own report acknowledges that such a system in Rhode Island would require a $3.7 billion increase in taxpayer funding of health care. Even a cursory review, however, suggests that he greatly overestimates savings to what he estimates would actually be a $13.2 billion program.

For instance, Friedman assumes that single-payer health care for everybody in our diverse single state could be administered as efficiently Medicare, which covers a relatively homogenous population (the elderly) at the federal level. Some might argue that the state government would actually be less efficient than the private-public mix of our state’s current health care system, but even if we assume improvement to the level of Medicaid under single-payer, we would have to add $497 million to Friedman’s estimate.

More (click on a link below):

2011 federal GAO study  shows many kids have worse access to doctors under government-run health insurance