Unions protest plan to limit funds they can go after in bargaining
September 29, 2012
A proposed regulation that would fence off more local government money from collective bargaining was delayed Friday after union representatives argued that a state panel lacks legal authority to consider the plan.The proposal before the state Committee on Local Government Finance would double the amount of money that Nevada’s local governments can keep in their ending fund balances from a maximum of 8.3 percent to 16.6 percent of any given general or special revenue fund.In collective bargaining, unions can’t go after public funds that wind up in the ending fund balances. Whether or not a city, county or other entity could reach that percentage, that revenue could not be used to raise public worker salaries.Unions led by Danny Thompson of the AFL-CIO enlisted the help of outgoing state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, to block the plan at least temporarily. In a letter to the committee, Horsford said he doesn’t believe the committee has the authority to raise that percentage.“There was no specific authority added by the 2001 Legislature or at any other time for the Committee on Local Government Finance to determine a specific percentage ending fund balance for general or special revenue funds,” Horsford wrote in a letter dated Sept. 11. “With this in mind, it appears clear that this is a subject that the Nevada Legislature has reserved for legislative action.”Thompson, joined by several other public employee union officials in backing that argument, said, “This issue has always been the province of the Legislature.” He added that the change would have “a profound impact.”Thompson was joined by Ron Dreher who represents peace officers among other public unions, Priscilla Maloney of AFSCME, Craig Stevens of the teachers union and others in calling on the committee to drop the idea and leave the issue to the 2013 Legislature.Reno City Manager Andrew Clinger maintained that any change adopted by the committee still would have to be approved by the Legislative Commission. He said after the meeting that the committee, like numerous other administrative panels created by the state, was formed in large part to write and adopt regulations for the Nevada Administrative Code.The committee’s deputy attorney general, Dawn Buoncristiani, said since Horsford’s letter didn’t arrive until Friday morning she wasn’t prepared to give a legal opinion on his argument. The committee postponed action on the proposed change pending receipt of her legal analysis.Thompson said after the meeting that such a substantive change “should be left to elected officials, not bureaucrats.”Nevada’s tough collective bargaining law has been the subject of much debate, especially since the recession hit. There has been some public anger over the high salaries of certain public workers, especially police and firemen. But city and county officials say unions have control of the process and can force raises even when a local entity is hurting financially.