Unions and the State of Maryland – When will it be “Enough”?
Calling it the “Enough is Enough” rally, thousands of union members descended upon Annapolis Monday night to protest the Governor’s budget. They came equipped with their standby class warfare calls,their rally signs, and even The Grim Reaper (who is apparently a member of the GOP). Never before has such a wholesale sense of entitlement rocked the streets of Annapolis.
Governor O’Malley made an appearance, and in what may be a first in his political career, actually received “boos” from the union members. He told the crowd that he didn’t like his budget either – a rather bizarre statement since just over a month ago he said his budget, “…rightly focuses resources on jobs and innovation – the worthwhile costs of making the right choices and investments in our future.”
The reality is that while individual state employees have every reason to be upset with the Governor and his budget, the unions – particularly AFSCME – really shouldn’t be crying foul.
Consider this: part of the Governor’s budget includes a $750 bonus for state employees. This scored him big points with the union and at the same time allowed the union to score big points with its membership. But, what hasn’t been widely discussed is that the bulk of this $750 bonus will not make it into the pockets of Maryland’s employees, it will instead line the coffers of AFSCME via the fair share charge.
The fair share charge is a product of “The Fair Share Act” which was a piece of Governor O’Malley’s legislative package in 2009. It forces non-union state employees to pay a fee to the exclusive representative of their collective bargaining unit. Who is the exclusive representative for 78% of the bargaining units subject to this fee? AFSCME! Even if you are a dues-paying member of another union such as Maryland Classified Employee Association (MCEA), you are still subject to the fee.
The fair share fee will be assessed for the first time in the 2012 Fiscal year which starts July 1. While the amount of the fee is still being negotiated, it is expected to be in the ballpark of $400 per year – more than half of the $750 bonus. According to the analysis by the Department of Legislative Services, with the bonus spread out across 26 pay periods (as it is currently designed) it will be swallowed up by the fair share fee (roughly $15 per pay period), and after taxes will only make the whopping impact of an additional $3.50 per pay period.
But don’t take our word for it, the non-partisan Department of Legislative Services said in their budget analysis “…the bonus as currently conceived will be spread over the 26 pay periods of fiscal 2012. Given the current tax structure for the average employee earning $48,500 per year, this $28.85 pre-tax boost to each check would likely result in the general post-tax range of an added $18.50 per pay period. This amount will be just enough to offset the fair share charge, hence doing little to provide a bonus to employees.”
The unions have fared quite well under Governor O’Malley’s leadership. It’s a shame we can’t say the same for the taxpayers. But, the question is – when will it be enough?
In-State Tuition for Illegal Immigrants
The controversial bill giving illegal immigrants in-state tuition rates moved out of the Maryland State Senate late Monday night. This legislation would allow illegal immigrants residing in the state and attending Maryland public schools the ability to receive in-state tuition benefits at Maryland public colleges.
SB 167 – Public Institutions of Higher Education – Tuition Rates – Exemptions makes illegal immigrants who have attended a MD high school for three years, and go on to complete an associate’s degree at the community college in their county of residence, eligible for in-state tuition rates both at the community college and at any public four year institution in the state. Currently, all students achieving an associate’s degree from a MD community college are eligible to transfer to a public institution to complete a bachelor’s degree.
Besides deepening Maryland’s current $1.6 billion deficit, there is an associated loss of opportunity for legal high school graduates in the state of Maryland. Currently, there are a select number of admission slots open to in-state residents. If the bill were to pass, the opportunities for legal in-state residents would decrease.
According to the Baltimore Sun, “Students who complete their associate’s degree would then be eligible to transfer to a four year institution with the same discount. Those who attend community college could save between $4,000 and $6,000 per year, while those who move on to four-year institutions could save much more.”
The fiscal impact of the Dream Act would be at “a cost of $800,000 next year. However, the total cost could grow to 3.5 million by 2016,” if signed into law. Former Governor Ehrlich vetoed a similar bill in 2003 but present Governor O’Malley has confirmed that he will sign the current bill into law if it passes the House.