I read a couple newspapers this week, and a number of articles centered on the looming toil facing legislators during this next session. Most of the suggestions were the standard suggestions; however, two specifically caught my attention.
In the Seattle Times the editorial board wrote the following about how to balance the budget:
Consider the following arithmetic. Private wage and salary employment in Washington peaked in March 2008 at 2,432,100 jobs. By November 2009, the private sector had lost a net 173,500 jobs. The state began the same period with 151,300 jobs, including state universities. By November it had lost a net 700 jobs — one job lost in state employment for every 247 lost in the private sector.
The Republican staff in Olympia calculates that if the state cut 5 percent of state workers by July 1 (with State Patrol officers and prison guards excepted), froze “step” pay increases, increased the workers’ share of health-insurance premiums to cover the shortfall in that account and delayed the payment of $5,000 bonuses to teachers earning national certification, it would save about $300 million. That’s enough to buy back all the proposed cuts to low-income school districts and college-student financial aid.
That would be a trade worth doing.
A proportionate sacrifice at the state level would likely save thousands of jobs, either in government or among the businesses taxed to support it. It could spare some of the programs that serve the growing number of people who genuinely need help. Few talk of anything so drastic. Instead there will be strong defenders of the $83 million in step pay raises due 21,000 state employees under their collective bargaining agreement, or unions on guard against further increases in employees’ share of their health insurance expense, despite potential collective savings over $100 million. Legislators, to their credit, are pondering furloughs or “temporary layoffs” to reduce wages.
These two editorials, sadly, do not surprise me. Still, in my mind the logic is faulty.
These two editorial boards believe that because the private sector has made large cuts to their industries that the public sector should do the same. However, this assumes that during the economic boom the public sector expanded like the private sector did, that the public sector reaped the monetary rewards that the private sector did, and that the public sector impacted the recession like the private sector did.
Private industry expands and contracts according to the market. The public sector does not (to the same degree). To equate the two is dishonest and faulty reasoning. In fact, when jobs are lost in the private sector, some aspects of government do expand to assist those who now need assistance.
Of course, I think back to a previous post from last year, but this is more than that. As an educator, this is about breaking the promises made to teachers. We ask for very little, receive even less, and are not part of the problem.
P.S. I had planned to start my National Boards this year, but I am going to wait and see if the salary increase promise is removed. If it is, I will not be starting them until that promise is fulfilled.