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Report: Cost of Labor Union Subsidy in Missouri Unknown Due to Lack of Government Record Keeping

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A new report by the Competitive Enterprise Institute reveals an appalling lack of transparency in how Missouri’s government agencies account for taxpayer dollars going to labor union coffers.

Public records requests made by CEI aimed to find out how much Missouri taxpayers were paying for “union release time,” a practice that allows public employees to conduct union business during work time without loss of pay. But only a small minority of Missouri government employers could provide satisfactory responses to CEI’s public records requests.

“At a time when taxpayer dollars are stretched thin in Missouri and other states, the government should stop funding activities that only serve special interests and do not advance a public purpose,” said CEI fellow and labor policy expert Trey Kovacs.

“But Missouri taxpayer also deserve to know the scope of the problem - how much money they are really spending on union business,” said Kovacs. “Right now, that doesn’t appear possible because Missouri government employers don’t track release time records, much less the cost, amount or activity performed on release time. Lawmakers should start enforcing existing constitutional restraints on government give-aways and institute record keeping responsibilities on government agencies.”

As explained in the report, A Remedy for Taxpayer Giveaway to Unions: Time to Enforce Missouri Constitution’s Bar on Gifts to Private Parties, union release time activities include: preparing and filing grievances, engaging in political activity, attending internal union meetings, union conferences, and negotiating contracts.

Thankfully, taxpayers have a recourse. The Missouri state constitution’s “gift clauses” already prohibit the use of public money to benefit narrow interests, such as labor unions. “The general assembly shall have no power to grant public money,” Missouri’s constitution states, “to any private person, association or corporation” with limited exceptions in instances of “public calamity” and old age assistance. Similarly, the Show-Me state constitution restricts local governments from granting “public money or thing of value to or in aid of any corporation, association or individual.” The report urges the legislature and courts to start enforcing that provision in the state constitution.

>  View the report, A Remedy for Taxpayer Giveaway to Unions: Time to Enforce Missouri Constitution’s Bar on Gifts to Private Parties by Trey Kovacs

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CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan public policy group dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government.  For more information about CEI, please visit our website, cei.org. Follow CEI on Twitter! Twitter.com/ceidotorg.