California has been through a lot lately. Between wildfires forcing tens of thousands of residents from their homes, a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, rolling blackouts affecting hundreds of thousands, and millions of Californians searching for work, our state needs a break.
While residents of the Golden State are no strangers to wildfires and struggling to get good service from a seemingly inept PG&E, many still look to our political leadership to provide guidance and reassurance in difficult times.
“We’re all in this together” has been the unofficial catchphrase of Gov. Gavin Newsom during the months-long COVID-19 lockdowns. When state employees effectively took a 10 percent salary reduction, the Governor promised parity within his administration.
If state workers had to lose money, Newsom promised he would willingly accept a commensurate pay cut of his own.
Except he didn’t.
Thanks to some investigative journalism at The Sacramento Bee, we now know that Newsom did not take a pay cut and instead collected his entire salary — more than $17,000 a month — for nearly three months after promising to do so.
Only State Controller Betty Yee actually followed through by accepting a voluntary pay cut. The other seven of California’s eight statewide officeholders continued taking their full pay.
It was only after the Bee broke the story that Newsom sent a letter to the Controller’s Office asking for his pay to be cut — retroactive to July 1. He also used the opportunity to urge other elected state officers to make the same sacrifice.
But the Governor isn’t the only one looking to exempt himself from the pain they’re asking everyone else to endure. Every single union leader representing government employees dealing with pay cuts and furlough days of their own has refused to reduce the amount of union dues taken from union member paychecks.
The dues calculations for many of these unions work as follows: Public employee union members pay a percentage of their annual salary to the union, usually between 1.2-1.7 percent. Most employees hit the cap, usually around $800, before the end of the fiscal year.
In March, the Freedom Foundation suggested a common-sense solution for public employees facing potential loss of income — adopt a three-month moratorium on union dues collections from their paychecks, allowing nearly $250 million to remain in the pockets of those who earned it and permitting them to spend the money instead on bills, medicine, food, fuel, etc.
The union leaders, who take such pride in “fighting for their members,” could have seen the wisdom in taking such action on their own, but they didn’t.
We reached out to the Governor about the proposal, but it was never even acknowledged. This is hardly surprising, given that labor unions donated more than $4 million to his campaign during the previous election cycle.
It’s unfortunate that Gov. Newsom would reject out of hand an effective way to provide much-needed assistance to struggling families across the state, while infusing the California economy with $250 million, all without raising a single dollar in taxes.
But this isn’t the first time he’s failed to show his solidarity with the working people of California. Recently, we learned the Governor’s $3.7 million mansion was gifted to him in violation of the gift limit set at $500 annually.
The LLC that gifted him his mansion was registered in the name of Newsom’s cousin and longtime business partner, who also happened to be the co-president of PlumpJack Wines. (See Jen Van Laar’s reporting on the subject here and here.)
You may remember that while 80 percent of wineries across California were forced to close due to COVID-19 regulations, this winery was able to keep their doors open. By a happy coincidence, Gov. Newsom and his wife own a combined $600,000 worth of shares in PlumpJack.
But don’t pay attention to any of Gavin Newsom’s shady dealings and personal enrichment. Just remember — we’re all in this together.
Sam Coleman is the California Outreach Director for the Freedom Foundation, a national free-market organization dedicated to holding government unions accountable.