Assembly Bill 1250 is bad policy no matter how you try to explain it.
Most of California’s local governments — much more so than the state government — face immense budget headaches in coming years because of the increasing costs of pensions and other retirement benefits. So when along comes a bill that would restrict 56 of the state’s 58 counties from contracting out services to local businesses, nonprofit groups and specialists — forcing them to add boatloads of new employees — it’s close to an existential threat.
Even after eight years of economic expansion, California counties continue to struggle to keep budgets in check under the growing strain of retirement and medical costs for public employees. But that problem would grow substantially worse under a contemptuous bill now working its way through the halls of the state Legislature.
Assembly Bill 1250 by Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, would severely limit the ability of counties to contract with community-based organizations, nonprofits and other groups to provide homeless shelters, mental health care and other services that local governments are not set up to provide on their own.
A union-backed bill to pad local government payrolls has been steadily diminished by those with the clout to fend off organized labor and its numerous friends in the California Legislature. The state’s cities got a reprieve from the bill en masse. So did San Francisco, the state’s only city and county, and Santa Clara County. All that’s left for the state Senate is to finish the job and kill this misbegotten bill altogether.
California has 58 county governments, each with its own payroll — and some of those payrolls are huge. Los Angeles County, for example, employs more than 100,000 people, which comes to about one county worker for every 100 residents.
Counties generally do a lot of contracting as well, usually for expertise or skill needed just for time-limited projects. Boards of supervisors ought to make decisions to hire or contract out based on what will best serve their constituents, but public employee unions and their rivals in the contracting sector try to influence those decisions by offering (or withholding) campaign contributions. Their relative power varies from county to county, but the unions generally have the more organized political clout. Ultimately it falls to voters to decide whether their elected supervisors are budgeting, hiring and contracting responsibly and to reelect them, or oust them, as the circumstances warrant. It’s not a perfect system, but for the most part, it works.
California is a place where Democratic Party lawmakers friendly to unions often turn into contortionists to ram through bills that hamstring local government and leave taxpayers footing higher bills or receiving reduced services.
Well, the contortionists are stretching their limbs even farther these days on behalf of the bucket of horse slop that is Assembly Bill 1250, which cleared the Assembly June 1 (with backing from Joaquin Arambula of Fresno) and on July 12 passed the Senate Governance and Finance Committee.
An insidious bill concocted by public employee labor unions would undermine the ability of California counties to provide services for the state’s neediest residents.
We’ve written about it before, but now we have direct evidence of how bad it is: Santa Clara County, one of the most union-dominated in the state, cut a side deal to exempt itself from the most catastrophic effects on its services.
With Democrat supermajorities in both houses of our state Legislature, some of the many special interests that make up the party’s base are bound to try to seize this political advantage and sponsor self-serving legislation. But a group of public employee unions may have taken the cake by sponsoring a bill designed to make it nearly impossible for local governments to contract out services.
We’ve seen some bad Sacramento legislation in our day and can now add Assembly Bill 1250 to the list. It’s an audacious, far-reaching attempt to swell the ranks of public employees — and ultimately, of union membership — at a time when our cities and counties can least afford it.
Many of California’s cities and counties, weighed down by mounting retirement and benefit costs, are barely keeping their heads above water. Now the state Legislature is considering an onerous bill that could push some of them under.
AB 1250, introduced by Assemblyman Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, aims to stop local governments from contracting out for key services. As written, it is hopelessly ambiguous, but the intent is clear: Increasing the number of public employees, who would be members of unions, rather than looking at outside services that could be more cost-effective.