Two well-connected government unions in California are teaming with Gov. Jerry Brown to support a multibillion-dollar tax increase.
The California Teachers Association and Service Employees International Union were the top two spenders for lobbying in 2011 with combined efforts totaling more than $10 million, according to Sacramento Bee. Now they’re using their muscle to champion Brown’s tax hike.
Brown’s plan “would raise tens of billions of dollars by temporarily increasing the sales tax and the income tax on wealthy Californians, generating about $35 billion over five years,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The involvement of government unions is nothing new, according to Heritage’s James Sherk, senior policy analyst in labor economics. He said these actions illustrate how unions lobby and support initiatives that lead to higher taxes and bigger government
Sherk documented the CTA’s involvement in previous debates over taxes:
The California Teachers Association spent $2 million gathering signatures for an initiative on the November 2010 ballot that would raise business taxes by $2 billion a year. Separately, public employee unions protested at the state capitol demanding the legislature raise taxes by $40 billion a year, including raising the top state income tax bracket to 11 percent, applying the sales tax to services in addition to goods, and increasing the state’s vehicle license fee by 2 percentage points.
The CTA and SEIU’s support of the tax increases depicts their motive—generate as much money as possible to get more union members hired, pay them higher salaries, and give them better benefits, all at the cost of the taxpayer.
As competition has limited the influence of private-sector unions, more union members are now working for the government. This means that unions are now looking to taxpayers to front the bill for their workers’ paychecks. Heritage Foundation Senior Policy Analyst Jason Richwine’s research shows that government employees in California receive 30 percent more than they would in the private sector.
According to Sherk:
In states without right-to-work laws, unionized employees must pay union dues or lose their jobs. State and local governments use their payroll systems to collect dues for the union. The government automatically deducts the dues—typically 1 percent to 2 percent of a government employee’s pay—and deposits it in the union’s bank account. One percent of the pay of several hundred thousand government workers is a lot of money. The New Jersey Education Association has 179,000 active members who each have to pay union dues of $761 every year. That works out to more than $136 million in dues a year. The American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees (AFSCME) national headquarters brought in $193 million in union dues in 2008.
Much of the money unions collect from dues goes to lobbying, which is then used to advocate for tax increases to sustain their members’ salaries. The CTA and SEIU are two prime examples.
“Unions consistently press for higher taxes and more government spending across America,” Sherk said. “The labor movement has made higher taxes and more government spending one of its top priorities.”