EDITORIAL: Legislative Demcorats putting government unions above the taxpayers

Friday is the legislative deadline for bills to pass out of committee. With a few exceptions, proposals that don’t make it to the Assembly or Senate floor by then are dead.

The cutoff point helps telegraph the priorities of the Democratic majority in Carson City.

Take Senate Bill 396, for instance. This measure intends to roll back modest collective bargaining reforms that Republicans, then in the majority, adopted just two years ago. If SB 396 moves forward this week, it will be a clear indication that state Democrats favor government unions over the taxpayers.

Among other things, SB 396 would revive so-called evergreen clauses in public-sector union contracts. Such a provision ensures that any contract lasts until a new agreement is in place, thus removing a prime incentive for workers to negotiate. It is a horrible deal for the private-sector stiffs who pay the bills.

Evergreen clauses “shift the power of government away from the democratic process to the government union benefiting from the contract,” noted a 2015 essay by John Wright of the Show Me Institute.

Is it any surprise that the sponsor of SB 396 — Las Vegas Democrat Kelvin Atkinson — is a retired Clark County employee who enjoyed a six-figure salary and benefit package?

During testimony this week on the bill, Mr. Atkinson argued that the 2015 reforms resulted in some government workers having to live without raises during negotiations. The horror! Cue the violins! In fact, that’s the exception rather than the rule. More often than not, deals include retroactive pay hikes and other back-dated perks.

Taxpayers are already at a disadvantage during contract talks, given that their representatives at the table often have little motivation to control costs given that — unlike in the private sector — they’re playing with someone else’s money. In addition, it’s not unusual for those supposedly bargaining on behalf of the taxpayers to actually be covered by provisions of any deal they reach. Can you spell “conflict”?

Rather than further stacking the deck against those who cover the costs, state lawmakers should be embracing initiatives that would make the process more transparent and accountable. A good place to start would be to mandate that government contract negotiations be open to the public. Shining a bright light on the system would represent a promising means of ensuring that local taxpayers don’t get rolled.

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