As best exemplified by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Republicans nationwide have some truly terrible ideas when it comes to public pension reform and public-employee unions. But despite what you may have heard, not all Republican-backed ideas for cutting the costs of public employees are blatant union-busting attempts or corporate windfall schemes bought and paid for by the Koch brothers. Case in point: Washington's SB 5852.
The bill, which was introduced this week, is sponsored by Republican state Sen. Mike Hewitt and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown (kumbaya), and would close the loophole that allows public employees to retire from their jobs with the state, then get rehired immediately again by the state (usually as consultants) and receive both a pension and a salary.
An investigation by The Seattle Times last year found that about 2,000 state employees were "double-dipping" with salaries and pensions in this way, costing taxpayers some $85 million per year. SB 5852 would end that.
The argument for keeping the practice in place is that veteran employees make good consultants because they've often spent their whole careers in that particular field and know the ins and outs better than most.
But whether that expertise is worth both the healthy salary that professional consultants normally enjoy and the public pension checks they're already getting seems obvious: It's not.
Maybe it's worth it for the state employer, but not for the taxpayer.
The same expertise that's valued by state agencies that want good engineering, legal, and public-policy consultants would play just as well in the private sector. And the ex-public employees who work in private jobs could keep receiving their pensions (they earned them, after all) with no skin off the taxpayers' teeth.
There is plenty of fat to be trimmed off the public-employee system in America and in Washington. And not all of it involves stripping hard-fought rights from workers.