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The Libertarian

Vin Suprynowicz

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In the face of soaring rates and brown-outs, the gerrymandered and ultra-leftist California Legislature panicked and pulled the plug on an electric deregulation scheme which was half-hearted (and thus largely foredoomed) in the first place.

They never bothered to point out that Californians’ real energy problems stem from the fact the greens have blocked construction of both new oil refineries and new nuclear power plants -- and even seawater desalination plants -- for decades.

(Inexpensive coal? Forget about it.)

But that was just the tip of the iceberg. Two years ago, the “Golden” state found itself on the point of issuing IOU’s on the model of the Weimar Republic, wallowing in debt and corruption, propping up a burgeoning bureaucracy that’s been reproducing like Dr. McCoy’s tribbles. (Who was the leading contributor to those opposing marijuana legalization? The California prison guards’ union.)

So, in some fortuitous combination of genius, luck, and desperation, California voters not only kicked out their sitting governor, they reached outside the political class entirely -- just as they had decades before, when they handed the world Ronald Reagan -- and elected a new American, a foreign-born celebrity who has lived his own version of the American dream, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Governator understands public relations and the bully pulpit. But he found real, systemic reform blocked by the aforementioned cabal of gerrymanders in Sacramento, as well as by the disproportionate power wielded there by the state’s public employee unions.

So, a month from now, Californians will be asked to vote on a series of modest, sensible reforms which Gov. Schwarzenegger says he needs to complete the job. The governor has raised some $34 million to promote those ballot initiatives.

But the public employee unions and the redistributionists they sustain like kept women in Sacramento are not pleased by Proposition 77 (which would turn the power to draw legislative boundaries over to retired judges), nor particularly by Proposition 75, an initiative that would restrict public employee unions’ ability to raise campaign money by requiring that they obtain each member’s approval each year before using his or her dues for political purposes.

(The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 17 years ago in the Beck decision that those who pay unions to negotiate their contracts may seek a refund of dues portions instead used for partisan political activism. But good luck to the lonely worker who tries. Prop 75 would shift the default setting, at least in California -- requiring unions to obtain explicit worker permission to use funds to promote their collectivist, left-wing agendas.)

So unhappy are these unionized “public servants” that they have raised a record-shattering $80 million to $100 million (observers are still counting) to defeat these measures.

And on California ballot initiatives, money usually talks. Only a companion growth-limitation measure related to Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights currently appears to be winning.“This is really life or death for these organizations. This is a real direct attack,” attorney and Democratic consultant Darry Sragow told the Los Angeles Times this week -- thus acknowledging just what Gov. Schwarzenegger claims, that competitive state assembly races and giving back union members the power to decide how their own dues are used could cripple the stranglehold of minority unions on state government.

Although the national AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C., gave $400,000 to oppose Proposition 75 last week, private employee unions have made comparatively modest efforts to defeat the governor’s measures, the Los Angeles Times reports. Instead, the biggest donations by far have come from unions that represent California civil servants, including prison guards and psychiatrists, Caltrans engineers, government clerks and public school teachers.

The California Teachers Assn., representing 330,000 public school teachers, is the biggest contributor, reporting $48.11 million so far. The second-largest contributor is the Service Employees International Union and its affiliates, which report having contributed nearly $14 million. (One SEIU local alone represents 140,000 state workers.)

Will Californians really allow their own state employees to buy this election with their long-larded-up paychecks, frightening taxpayers away from their proper job of reining in runaway spending, like children spooked on Halloween? Will Californians run from the polls like Ichabod Crane, rather than turning out “safe” incumbents and restoring competitive election districts where candidates must again answer to voters and taxpayers?

If so, the outflow of wealth, employers and jobs from the Golden State will only accelerate, and the voters of California will deserve precisely what they get.