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As we recently noted, the California Department of Transportation employs 3,500 full-time engineers who do little more than sit at their desks. The state’s Legislative Analyst wants to cut these positions, but Caltrans executives cried foul. So did union boss Bruce Blanning, executive director of Professional Engineers in California Government. Blanning told reporters the Legislative Analyst was “childish,” that idle staff should be kept on in case of future projects, and that outsourcing work to independent contractors “wastes taxpayer money.” That is the prevailing view among government employee unions, who demonstrate outside the state capitol chanting “This is our house!” A recent development lends support to that reality.
As Jon Ortiz notes in the Sacramento Bee, the state of California just gave Professional Engineers in California Government a raise of 7 percent, retroactive to July 2 and lasting until June 30, 2018. But the 13,000-member union did not get everything it wanted. As Ortiz notes, “the union agreed to start paying a percentage of salaries toward retiree medical care and other post-employment benefits.” Imagine that–government employees actually paying for benefits. Not to worry because “the state will match the employees’ contributions to the retiree-benefits fund.” So it’s another sweetheart deal for the union whose website proclaims “Engineering California’s Future” and “Designing projects for today and for generations to come.”
One of those projects is the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. As we have often noted, this project ran $5 billion over budget and came in 10 years late. Despite all that time and money, serious safety issues remain. State senator Mark DeSaulnier, who held hearings on the safety problems, has departed to Washington. When he learned of the safety issues, Governor Jerry Brown famously quipped “shit happens.” Brown fired no Caltrans bosses, and as DeSaulnier observed nobody has been held accountable for the safety issues. In those conditions, the Golden State gives Professional Engineers in California Government a pay hike.