Pueblo Chieftain: “We agree” with Clean Government Payroll Initiative

A ballot initiative proposed for the November 2008 Colorado ballot (and supported by the Independence Institute, where I work) has earned its third major newspaper endorsement, still more than six months out from the election.

From the Pueblo Chieftain today:

THE INDEPENDENCE Institute, a Golden-based think tank, is circulating petitions for a ballot initiative that would stop governmental agencies from collecting union dues from their employees.

In 2001, then-Gov. Bill Owens signed an executive order that stopped the payroll deduction for unionized state employees. Soon after Bill Ritter’s election, the new governor issued a new executive order to resume the automatic deductions.

Jon Caldera, president of Independence, says the organization doesn’t believe governments should be collectors and distributors of dues for unions that turn around and spend that money to lobby the same governments. Independence believes that taxpayers should not be subsidizing unions that often work counter to the taxpayers’ general interest.

We agree. [emphasis added]

The first endorsement came from the Rocky Mountain News:

We hope the campaign continues to gain ground, because governments should not serve as collection agents for any dues-based organizations, not just unions.

In endorsing ethical standards for payroll, the Colorado Springs Gazette explained the issue in greater detail:

Union membership can be a fine thing for some public employees. Law should never prohibit employees from giving to special interest lobbying causes. If an employee chooses to give an entire annual wage to a cause, so be it. But it needs to be a fair relationship between the union and each employee, without government acting as dues collector.

Though special interest wage raids exploit public employees, they’re also unfair to the majority of people who don’t work in government. Why should the wages of public employees, provided by taxpayers, be eroded to pay for the promotion of a few pet causes of union leaders?

We’re thankful that in the wake of Ritter’s executive order a growing number of lawmakers throughout Colorado are seeing the light. County commissioners in El Paso and seven other counties, for example, have already adopted ethical payroll standards to protect county employees from automatic special interest withholdings.

The proposed amendment would allow governments to withhold only those payments required by law, such as: tax withholdings, Social Security and Medicare, judicial liens and garnishments, health benefits, pension and retirement payments, and charitable deductions, such as United Way contributions, pre-authorized by the employee.

The amendment would bring all government entities in line with the growing number of county governments that are choosing to protect the wages of their employees from the autopilfering of special interests. We hope Colorado voters spread the word and pass the ESP Amendment in November. It’s just plain fairness and common sense for all. [emphases added]

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