| March 4, 2011

Putting taxpayers in a bind

There was an excellent column in The Oklahoman this week by Oklahoma’s labor commissioner, Mark Costello, on the topic of binding arbitration. He writes:

According to 2009 U.S. Bureau of Labor data, average state and local government wages are 34 percent higher than those in the private sector, health benefits are 118 percent more generous, and public-sector pensions are 595 percent more generously funded. This ever-widening disparity has led Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to assert, “We can no longer live in a society where the public employees are the haves, and the taxpayers who foot the bills are the have-nots."

Indeed, a report the very next day in USA Today informed us that public employees in Wisconsin – and in Oklahoma – receive higher average pay and benefits than their private-sector counterparts. One reason? Binding arbitration. Costello writes:

Binding arbitration made its way into Oklahoma law in the waning days of Gov. David Walters’ administration in 1994, barely passing after aggressive lobbying by members of the public-sector labor unions. At the time, The Oklahoman editorialized that the legislation was “a bad bill sought by unions for selfish reasons and not in the best interest of the people.” …

Two courageous legislators, Sen. David Holt and Rep. Scott Martin, have introduced bills (Senate Bill 826 and House Bill 1576, respectively) that would restore equilibrium between the voters and their public servants. These legislators deserve the full support of citizens who believe in a just and sustainable society.

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