New Mexico’s Public Employees Overreach

When I picked up this morning’s Albuquerque Journal, I was stunned to see the headline, “Workers Sue over ‘Wage Tax.'” The story detailed a lawsuit being brought against the state by AFSCME, the American Federation of TEachers, the NEA, and other uniions who apparently feel that their members should be exempted from both economic reality and state law.
Certainly, New Mexico’s budget faces cuts given the tough economic times and the Legislature, aware of this fact and not wanting to raise taxes or lay off large numbers of government workers, decided to increase the amount government workers must contribute to their pensions. Certainly, this would not raise any eyebrows were similar cuts made in the private sector. After all, businesses have limited resources and when the economy goes south, layoffs, wage freezes, and benefit reductions are part of life.
But unionized government workers don’t live in the real world. Rather, they know that governments can be influenced politically — making it doubly impressive that the Legislature chose to place part of the burden for tough economic times on this politically-powerful lobby. Unfortunately, while it seems doubtful that the unions have much of a case, it would seem that their suit is designed to raise the costs, both political and financial, of such legislative actions by fighting the battle in court.
We at the Rio Grande Foundation have done a great deal of work on the issue of New Mexico’s bloated and overpaid government work force. Studies can be found here and here. Hopefully legislators stick to their guns, and realize that New Mexico’s bureaucracy remains bloated and a prime target for future cuts. There can be no doubt that well-financed unions — financed with New Mexicans’ taxpayer dollars — will fight to avoid any cuts and will do so every step of the way because they don’t live by the same rules we do.

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