The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

September 4, 2012

Our View: Testing priorities

The Joplin Globe

— There is no question that unions, specifically public employee unions,  support the Democratic Party.

The raw political combat in Wisconsin is one of the biggest examples of that type of support. It is also symptomatic of a problem facing the Democratic Party on a broad national level.

The fundamental issue is where the money will come from to meet demands by state public employee pension and health care funding both now and in the future. Despite recent tax increases, projections in Illinois show that public employee state pension funds will soon consume about 22 percent of all state revenues.

California faces similar problems, and the bond ratings for those two states reflect the lack of market confidence that the legislatures in those two states can continue to meet financial commitments in the long term.

Political rhetoric aside, the situation boils down to finding the money to pay for the health care and retirement benefits for public service employees fairly negotiated with state authorities in the past. Either state taxes must be raised or other state funding priorities must be cut.

In the past decades, optimistic projections of economic growth provided political cover for continued public service union demands for more health care benefits and retirement benefits. Our ability to fully recover from the recession has severely challenged these projections. As well, the impacts of national debt have further eroded projections.

The real challenge for the Democratic Party at both the level of state and federal funding is how to meet financial obligations and future promises to support sustainable funding for programs that have been widely popular with American voters.

The tea party in particular, and the larger GOP, have indicated reducing the current programs and limiting the growth in future programs at both state and federal levels as the preferred course of action.

It’s just one more decision voters will be making in November.