March 8, 2011- Here's a novel approach to blunting the power of public sector unions. New Hampshire Republicans are proposing to penalize state employees if they sue the government for breach of contract. Successfully sue us, they warn, and we'll cut your benefits.
Here's how it would work. A New Hampshire Senate panel just advanced legislation that would clawback state employee benefits more generally. According to the Union Leader, it "raises retirement ages for police and firefighters, cuts back the amount of pay that can be included in pension calculations, and requires workers to pay higher shares of their pay toward retirement costs."
But if you work for the state, and think that's a bum deal, too bad. The bill was amended Monday to force workers to contribute an additional three percent of their salaries to their pensions if they win a court battle on the grounds that the cuts violate the states contract with the union.
"It sounds like punishment," said Sen. Sharon Carson–the panel's chair, and the only Republican to oppose the provision. "It's a way of saying, 'Don't take us to court, or we'll raise your rates.' "
Just how likely is a bill like this to pass? In New Hampshire, Republicans have veto proof majorities in both the House and Senate. There's some cross-over on labor issues, but just a couple weeks ago, the House passed Right-to-Work legislation, which is now winding its way through the Senate.
The Democratic governor has fairly limited leverage if Republicans line up behind this plan unanimously. The lawsuit measure won a 3-2 vote on the five-member Administration Committee, which advanced the broader legislation on a party line 4-1 vote.