Saturday, February 4, 2012

public employee unions……

A number of years ago, I was elected to the Fort Atkinson City Council.   While I was on the council, my brother Doug had a lot of projects come up for vote.  In each case, I recused myself from voting due to potential conflict of interest. 

As I think of public employee unions, I’m beginning to feel the conflict between unions and the public administration is palpable.  During the protests last winter, it was obvious the unions were trying to wield their influence with semi-trailers parked around the Capitol Square.  Union members stalked the square with their placards, bullhorns, drums and more. 

While an interesting event, I began to wonder where else an employee could protest, miss work (in some cases with a fraudulent medical excuse), and enlist others to help get their boss fired. 

While I don’t really have anything against unions, the line is crossed when one of the bargainers at the table can essentially influence others to help get their boss fired.  Obviously, this position creates an atmosphere of conflict of interest, with the promise of campaign donations and public support for anyone who delivers for the union at the public service level.

So, here is what I think.  Since I really don’t have anything against unions, we should allow them to bargain at the public service level.  But, with that bargaining power and influence, union members should be recused from voting in the elections that affect their bargaining position, namely state, county and municipal elections. 

Like me, as a city councilman, it was and is important that we retain complete transparency and root out favoritism or influence peddling at any level.  That could be a start.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

defining poor….

I just read a post on Facebook opposing the sunsetting of the Homestead Tax Credit as something that would unfairly target seniors and poor people. 

Now, I might not have all the requisite intelligence to have a discussion regarding this.  In fact, I was called “out of touch”.  But, here is my argument. 

Poor people don’t own homes.  By definition, if they owned their home, they have an asset that makes them unpoor.  It’s something that they can transfer for money.

Now, I understand that having a home can make you poorer than you want to be, and it might be necessary to relieve yourself of that “asset” and get into something your income will allow you to afford.

But, my sense is that some people believe we somehow “owe” it to people to keep their assets when they go into retirement, that we somehow owe it to them when there are alternatives, that they have a right to not pay taxes simply by turning a page on the calendar.

I get that it sucks when you’re forced out of your home when you can’t afford it.  It happens all the time, often to people with families and incomes that are much lower than those with Social Security benefits.

Here is an idea that I could support.  Get your house appraised.  If you can’t afford the taxes, the government could set up a program that allows you to live in your home as long as there is a positive balance on the ledger.  Once you pass on, or move on, the government gets a lien against the estate and gets the taxes to which it is entitled.  That’s an idea I could live with.