Friday, April 25, 2003
POWERFUL SUGGESTION ON STATE FINANCE TO SENATORS
FROM LONGTIME OMAHA TAX ACTIVIST BOB ZABAWA:
TWO YEARS OF 5% PAY CUTS FOR STATE EMPLOYEES
You and your committee associates have nibbled around the edges on your proposed cuts/decreases in increases, moving money from specified funds like the gasoline tax, and maybe things I am not aware of. All this while the revenues, especially from income tax, are declining markedly as the result of the economy going into the tank. And, no sign of any rebound in the next two years with the typical delay in filing returns.
The usual screaming by all state, university and local entities about possible cuts from you, the state, is perfected to a science. Don't cut us, just give us more money, even though have not produced any better results, especially in the field of education.
Over 300 studies on K-12 education and all the elements -- teacher salaries, quality of facilities, pupil-teacher ratios, curriculum, discipline, high expectations and enforced, analyzed by Erik Hanushek, professor at Rochester University, NY, absolutely show that more money is not the answer. Strong curriculum and high expectations do the job.
Now to my point. From the state to the UNL System, the K-12 system, cities and counties, et al, their operating budgets are salaries and healthy fringes (30%) usually representing anywhere from 50% to 85% of the total.
The public sector in this nation, over 19,000,000 employees strong, makes anywhere from 20% to 60% more than the private sector, according to a study done by ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) in the mid-1990s. If the trend continues, as it has since then, with the powerful unions getting by with strong-arm negotiation instead of productivity, collectively they will break this country. Just ponder what the steel, meat packing, airline industries and others have done.
In our case in Nebraska, I know we have the CIR in statute, and apparently in statute, that any disputes on salaries cannot take into consideration a falling economy and declining revenues. If true, that needs to be changed by the Legislature.
Now, a suggestion for a solution. Instead of all these agencies nibbling around the edges and cutting the weakest employees and terminating the few non-tenured teachers, why not recommend that all agencies including administrators take consecutive 5% cuts over the next two years and nobody would have to laid off? That would be the compassionate thing to do. If they don't do it voluntarily, force them all into Chapter 11 to renegotiate.
After all, they all have had it pretty good over the last 30-40 years with their steady increases. Maybe a 2-year break in the trend would solve our dilemma.
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