BY: Citizens Count
In New Hampshire, contracts with the unions that represent state workers such as corrections officers, state police, and staff at various state agencies are negotiated by the governor's office. However, some argue that contracts would work out better for taxpayers if the Legislature had a seat at the table.
More legislative oversight of public employee contracts?
In 2012, the New Hampshire Legislature passed a bill that would require legislators to approve any contracts with public employee unions. Gov. John Lynch vetoed the bill. Since then legislators have introduced similar bills, but none have passed.
Do public employee contracts need more oversight?
Supporters of giving the Legislature more power over contracts point out that past contracts contributed to the financial troubles in the retirement system and other budget shortfalls. Since the Legislature is responsible for drafting the state budget, they should be able to examine contracts that can significantly affect state finances.
Supporters of state legislative oversight also note that contracts with local, school, and county employees all must be approved by local legislative bodies, such as school boards or city councils.
An expensive complication?
Opponents argue that control of the state budget already gives legislators power over contracts with public workers. In the budget, the Legislature allocates money for wages and benefits for state workers. In theory, legislators could refuse to budget the funds for raises or benefit hikes negotiated by the governor.
Other opponents point out that the specific terms of employment in state contracts are set by expert negotiators. Allowing the Legislature to nitpick those terms would be very disruptive, lengthening the negotiation process and potentially requiring many more meetings of the Legislature.
The negotiation process is already complex and lengthy. Case in point? The recent negotiations between the Governor’s office and corrections employees. Those negotiations have stalled for months, and in the meantime state prisons remain understaffed.
Do you think the New Hampshire Legislature should have the power to veto public employee contracts? Let us know in the comments below.