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The Government Union Right to Viagra is Bankrupting You

Posted By Conn Carroll On March 31, 2011 @ 1:00 pm In Economics | Comments Disabled

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According to the liberal version of events [2], the ongoing fight in Wisconsin between Gov. Scott Walker (R) and government unions centered on the unions’ “right” to collective bargain for wages and benefits. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, there simply is no “right” to collective bargaining [3]. And just what are the “benefits” that government unions use their collective bargaining privileges to take from taxpayers? Today, The Washington Post [4] reports on Montgomery County, Maryland’s very similar budget troubles:

At a time when public employees unions are fighting for their lives elsewhere in the United States, the munificence of Montgomery’s benefits package was captured in an e-mail this month notifying workers, in the understated prose of a Q&A fact sheet, that “the County will no longer cover the cost of purchasing medications used to treat erectile dysfunction (ED).” …  Officials said ending the ED benefit for county government employees, retirees and their families would save $400,000 a year.

Forcing taxpayers to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for government union Viagra is not unique to Montgomery County. In fact, the very same government unions that were demanding their “right” to collective bargaining in Wisconsin [5] have repeatedly fought for their “right” to Viagra as well:

In 2002, through collective bargaining, Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association won the inclusion of Viagra in its members’ health plans, and by 2004, 10% of union membership (which isn’t a male-dominated set) was subscribing to the benefit — at a cost of more than $200,000 per year to the Milwaukee school district. Not until 2005 was the school district finally able to convince an arbitrator to drop the coverage.

Last year, while the school district faced a $10 million budget shortfall, the MTEA decided it was time to revisit those drug benefits and filed a lawsuit demanding their reintroduction to union health plans—at a projected cost of $786,000 in 2010.

It may look like the union trying to raise costs for taxpayers, but MTEA spokeswoman Kristin Collett insists that it’s really a matter of fundamental rights: “this is an issue of discrimination, of equal rights for all our members.”

Of course, there is no “right” to Viagra, just as there is no “right” to collective bargaining. All Americans do have a First Amendment right of freedom of association. But that does not mean that unions have any right to force their government employers to sign exclusive contracts benefiting their members at the cost of taxpayers. And those costs are real. Government unions are so powerful in Montgomery County that politicians give campaign contributions to the union [6], not the other way around. The result? Montgomery Country faces a $608 million deficit this year [7] and structural deficits looking far into the future [8]. And what is the driving force of Montgomery County’s structural deficits? Government union benefits like Viagra. According to the Montgomery County Office of Legislative Oversight [8]:

Between FY02 and FY11, the primary driver behind higher personnel costs was not an increase in the size of the workforce but rather the increase in average costs per employee. Across the four agencies, employee salaries grew by 50% in the aggregate and by higher amounts (up to 80%) for individual employees, while the costs of health and retirement/pension benefits increased upwards of 120%. In FY11, the combined agency cost of employee benefits is almost $740 million, or 22% of all spending.

And remember, that 22% of all spending is just for employee benefits. According to the same report, 82% of all tax supported Montgomery County spending goes to employee compensation.


Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org

URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2011/03/31/the-government-union-right-to-viagra-is-bankrupting-you/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.foundry.org/wp-content/uploads/504px-Viagra_in_Pack.jpg

[2] liberal version of events: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/07/opinion/07krugman.html?ref=todayspaper

[3] there simply is no “right” to collective bargaining: http://blog.heritage.org../2011/03/01/collective-bargaining-is-not-a-right/

[4] The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/politics/accustomed-to-generosity-montgomery-county-struggles-with-budget-limits/2011/03/25/AFPKAieB_print.html

[5] the very same government unions that were demanding their “right” to collective bargaining in Wisconsin: http://blog.heritage.org../2011/02/25/wisconsin-union-collective-bargaining-a-teachers-fundamental-right-to-viagra/

[6] politicians give campaign contributions to the union: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/04/AR2010020404421.html

[7] $608 million deficit this year: http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/montgomery-county039s-budget-gap-grows-608-million

[8] structural deficits looking far into the future: http://www.scribd.com/doc/44484318/Montgomery-County-Report-on-the-Structural-Deficit

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