Tag: Freedom Foundation

Police, Protesters Clash at Vancouver Labor Reform Event

At least two people were arrested Thursday evening at a joint Freedom Foundation and Cascade Policy Institute event in Vancouver, Wash.

The event featured Vinnie Vernuccio, a labor policy expert from Michigan’s Mackinac Center for Public Policy, discussing state labor reforms that empower workers to decide whether or not to participate in and support union organizations.

Those arrested were part of a group of pro-union, anti-worker protesters bent on preventing open dialogue. The Freedom Foundation welcomes anyone to attend our events and to ask civil questions. The protesters, too cowardly to engage in civilized debate, instead screamed at event organizers and attendees and even tried to prevent attendees from parking or entering the event room.

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Union protesters were arrested last night at a Freedom Foundation event in Vancouver, WA

The protesters are right to be afraid. When surveyed, more than one-third of union members say they would leave their union if they could do so without repercussions. In states where union membership is voluntary, many workers reject unions as unrepresentative of their interests or simply not worthwhile.

The Freedom Foundation and our allies at Cascade Policy Institute and the Mackinac Center will never retreat, never surrender, in the face of such attempted bullying. We are thankful to the Vancouver Police Department for their response and to our attendees and supporters for their courage and dedication to open debate and to freedom.

[Reposted with permission from the Freedom Foundation blog]

State Actuary Defends Pension Fund Accounting

Is Washington’s pension system well-funded and secure, or does the accounting system it uses simply overstate strengths while minimizing weaknesses?

According to the state’s actuary, the truth is a combination of both.

Matt Smith, appearing on Thursday night in a town hall meeting at the University of Washington, told attendees the state uses a variety of methods to look at its pension system depending on it wants to see.

“Both sides are right,” he said. “There are different measurements for different purposes.”

Smith was responding to a report prepared earlier this month by American Enterprise Institute scholar Andrew Biggs for the Olympia-based Freedom Foundation, which sponsored the gathering on Thursday night.

In his analysis, Biggs said the state is only funded at 52 percent — a level that would earn it a shaky status if Washington were a private business.

“Judged by private-pension standards, Washington state’s public pensions aren’t fully funded,” he wrote. “For context, the U.S. Department of Labor rules that any private pension under 65 percent funding is considered ‘critical’ and must immediately move to fix its problems. And the burden of truly fully funding pensions on Washington’s budget won’t be the 3 to 4 percent the state is currently putting aside, but several multiples of that.”

The main problem, Biggs said, is that the state reports the value of its pension system based on the 8 percent return it hopes it can earn via riskier investments in the stock market rather than the 4 percent it is guaranteed to earn with safer instruments like Treasury bills.

“Just because you say you’re going to get 8 percent doesn’t mean you will,” Biggs told the town hall crowd. “On paper, risk solves the problem. In real life, it doesn’t always work that way.”

Smith, however, insisted the state wasn’t being overly optimistic in its accounting.

“Over the past 20 years,” he said, “the state has averaged a return of 8.2 percent on its investments. If you’re looking for an accurate number, does it make more sense to base your projections on history or worst-case scenarios?”

Smith said the state also calculated its pension funding according to Biggs’ more conservative standards, and that both sets of numbers were on the Actuary Office‘s website for everyone to see.

“We’re as transparent as any state in the country,” he said. “We’re not trying to hide anything. Compared with other states, Washington is much more open and much better funded.”

Biggs agreed Washington wasn’t in as precarious a position as other states like California, whose unfunded pension liability has been estimated at $500 billion.

But that doesn’t mean the state doesn’t have a problem.

“Being one of the better-funded states these days is being like the prettiest hog in the slaughterhouse,” Biggs said.

Freedom Foundation founder Bob Williams said the issue isn’t a partisan one, noting that he’s currently working with governors of both parties around the country to heighten awareness about the ticking pension time bomb.

“I can tell you what someone who is definitely not a conservative thinks about this problem,” he said. “Bill Gates Jr. has been quoted as predicting state and local governments will have to lay off 100,000 people over the next few years, and he attributes that to fraudulent accounting methods.”

It’s not uncommon already, he said, for Washington cities to be paying for three policemen — one active and two retired.

“A day of reckoning is coming,” Williams said. “It’s a real problem.”

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[Reprinted with permission from Olympia Watch; photo credit: Indenture]

Watchdog Group Files Appeal in Key Public Records Case Against Gregoire

On Wednesday, the Freedom Foundation filed an appeal with Washington State’s Supreme Court challenging a lower court ruling in its case against the governor for her withholding of some documents requested under the Washington State’s Public Records Act.

Though Gov. Christine Gregoire won an initial victory in her fight to establish executive privilege as a legal reason for withholding information, the matter of protecting public access to important public documents is still being battled by the group that brought suit against the governor earlier this year.

Freedom Foundation general counsel Mike Reitz told NW Daily Marker that the possibility exists for the Supreme Court to set a precedent for executive privilege that could be liberally applied by whoever holds the governor’s office in the future, but he sees that as a stark departure from how the courts have previously ruled on conflict between an executive’s right to privacy and the public’s right to know.

“If they ruled in favor of the governor, that would be a game-changer,” Reitz said. “That would be the first time an appeals court in Washington has recognized executive privilege and that’s going all the back through 120 years of statehood.”

Freedom Foundation v. Gregoire was filed in April to challenge Gregoire’s right to withhold documents pursuant to a number of requests for information pertaining to her office’s involvement in the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement, deliberations on medical marijuana legislation, and other high profile issues affecting public policy. Gregoire has claimed executive privilege as the basis for withholding the documents and has insisted that constitutional theory affords her the prerogative; the Freedom Foundation argued in its case that no such right exists in the state’s public records law.

In the first set of decisions in the case, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy sided with the governor’s position, and by doing so may have created the right of executive privilege for future governors. Freedom Foundation’s appeal seeks to avert the larger implication of allowing the lower court’s decision to stand, what it believes would be a government free to operate without fear of public accountability.

The Freedom Foundation coordinated the filing of its appeal with a money bomb fundraising campaign on its website and through social media. During a live broadcast on the group’s Facebook page, general counsel Mike Reitz stated that the merits of the Freedom Foundation’s position are strong and he wants to hire on additional legal muscle to ensure the best chance of a successful appeal.

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