2011-06-23 / Editorial

Taxation without representation ahead?

Jamestowners should be aware of pending legislation before the General Assembly that could prove costly to Jamestowners if enacted.

The bills, which sound as if they were written by union leadership, strengthen current binding arbitration law and make all contracts perpetual for teachers.

To put it simply, these bills circumvent the democratic process of elected school committees. As written, the legislation would require that a panel of unelected arbitrators determine the terms of contracts whenever the unions request.

In Jamestown’s case, that would mean that there would be no incentive for the teachers to reach an agreement with the school committee. The teachers would demand binding arbitration because under the proposed law they will always receive a better package than what the school committee would propose.

The arbitration panel would be required to base the contract settlement on “the city or town’s ability to pay.” In addition, the panel must use a “comparison of compensation, benefits and condition of employment of the school district in question” with that of other Rhode Island cities and towns. The decision-making process is placed entirely in the hands of an unelected panel.

Jamestown strives to be in the middle of teacher wage and benefit packages offered across the state. In fact, the island school department is 18 out of 36. That policy would most certainly end.

If you are opposed to this taxation without representation legislation, don’t hesitate to contact our elected legislators. You can be sure that the unions have been lobbying hard for these bills. It is feared these bills may be approved in the final-minute flurry of votes.

Don’t wait to call and e-mail:

State Sen. M. Teresa Paiva Weed
Call 222-6655
E-mail: sen-paivaweed@rilin.state.ri.us

State Rep. Deb Ruggiero
Call 222-2258
Email: rep-ruggiero@rilin.state.ri.us

Binding arbitration already exists for teachers in Rhode Island. Under the current system arbitrators find a solution when an impasse is reached. But the arbitrators are not instructed to follow other cities and towns when reaching that decision.

These proposed bills are dangerous. They rob Jamestowners of the democratic process. These bills guarantee that Jamestown has no negotiating room with the teachers’ union. Wages and benefits will increase without debate. Your property tax bill will be impacted.

One would think that given the precarious financial outlook of the state of Rhode Island and its cities and towns, our General Assembly would seek to provide our communities with the tools they need to survive.

— Jeff McDonough

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