State managed pensions hinder the ability of local governments to negotiate plans that are reasonably in line with what they can afford, but the road to local control has a major road block – government collection of union dues.

The way to level the playing field between taxpayers and public-sector union lobbyists— who advocate for increasing the minimum wage and largely fund democrats — is to stop governments from using taxpayer resources to empower unions.

Like most union heads, chairman of Houston Firefighter Pension Fund Todd Clark strongly believes that mounting pension obligations are not a burden city coffers, instead claiming general over-spending as the culprit.

In reality, it’s both.

Without paycheck protection, government entities will continue to facilitate the transfer of union dues from the employee members to the unions. Requiring members to opt-in to a third-party automatic payment plan (rather than deducting it from their paycheck), would not only modestly reduce the cost of government administration, it would also reduce the size of the unions.

Public sector unions oppose paycheck protection because they know, if given the opportunity to make a conscious choice to pay their union dues after receiving their paycheck, employees would likely opt out of paying. Without ending this process, the unions remained emboldened and well-financed to fight any efforts to regain local control of their pensions.

The Texas Legislature has the power to ban government entities using taxpayer resources to collect any dues. This all-encompassing plan removes the political collusion between government and unions, but also forces unions to use their own resources, ultimately weakening their lobbying power.

(The Texas Senate passed a bill doing just that in the last legislative session. It was later killed in the House by Speaker Joe Straus and his State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook.)

Pro-worker bills die in the Texas House because of union-funded liberal Republicans. Fortunately, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has tasked the Senate to study the issue of government union dues collection, which will hopefully lead to a renewed effort in both chambers next session. Taxpayers across the state concerned with pension reform need to join the union dues fight, because that’s the only way to move both reforms forward.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.


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