Arizona Bill To Limit Unions Would Cost Local Goverments Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars

Arizona Republicans introduced a slate of legislation earlier this month targeting public sector unions, earning Gov. Jan Brewer (R) the title of “the Scott Walker of the West,” an homage to the union-busting governor of Wisconsin who is now facing recall efforts. Though two of the bills, including one that would have essentially banned public sector unions, stalled in the state legislature, a bill that would end the practice of workers automatically deducting union dues from their paychecks is still proceeding.

Like Walker and his Republican colleagues in Wisconsin, Brewer and Arizona’s Republicans have presented the union “reforms” as a necessary step in bringing the state’s budget under control. But according to a new report from the state’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee, the bill would actually cost local and municipal governments — and Arizona taxpayers — hundreds of thousands of dollars, as Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini reports:

The Arizona Senate gave tentative approval Thursday to a bill that would prohibit deductions from government employees’ paychecks for unions, even after members were told by their own Joint Legislative Budget Committee that doing so would cost Arizona municipalities hundreds of thousands of dollars. […]

According to a JLBC report, “Local governments estimated the impact to range from minimal to $300,000 in one-time spending and $85,000 per year in on-going expenditures.”

The bill would require workers to “expressly authorize” deductions on an annual basis. The additional costs would result from local and municipal governments “having to process annual renewals for union dues from all of its workers, rather than make changes only when specifically requested,” according to the East Valley Tribune.

The Republican argument that unions are costing Arizona taxpayers huge sums of money is already disingenuous. Arizona is a “right to work” state where state employees aren’t allowed to collectively bargain with their employer. Evidence that public sector workers are eating up state budgets is lacking, as states like North Carolina (which doesn’t allow collective bargaining) suffers from a larger budget deficit than New York (the most heavily unionized state in America). The share of state budgets that go toward state employee compensation, meanwhile, has actually decreased over the last two decades.

That Arizona Republicans continue to pursue the legislation despite evidence that it will actually cost taxpayers money is further proof that, like in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio before them, the GOP’s anti-labor crusade is about permanently crippling unions, not about “fixing” state budgets.