The New Hampshire police union is fighting legislation that would take away their ability to force utility companies to pay them for easy work.
If you have been driving any length of time you have probably come to a place where a utility company is doing repairs on a hanging wire. Since the utility truck is half way on the road, it effectively becomes a single-lane street when you drive past the truck. So there will be a couple of people with a flag who will tell you to stop or wave you on through.
What if I told you that worker was being paid $40 to $50 an hour plus the utility company was paying an extra $25 an hour for “administrative charges.”
Does that seem like a lot for unskilled labor?
Ordinary flaggers are not paid that much, but police officers are. The New Hampshire police have it set up so the police chief decides whether or not police are “needed” on a certain road. The idea is that normal flaggers can be used in most cases, but sometimes the New Hampshire police are needed when there is reason to believe that the traffic will be extra bad.
But now the legislature is trying to get that changed for the third time in five years.
“Should this bill pass, it will be a major intrusion into local decision-making,” said Robert Blaisdell, the lobbyist for the police association.
Former Public Utilities Commissioner Michael Harrington, now a private energy consultant, told the committee that utilities, construction companies and others who occasionally need traffic control find a hodgepodge of regulations as they move from community to community.
In some communities, flaggers are allowed, even encouraged, while in others, police have first right of refusal on all details, with the chief making the decision.
“The costs are hidden,” Harrington said. “They are hidden in energy rates. No one sees a charge for this, but it has a large effect, in millions of dollars, because we have cable companies, gas companies who are also affected. It’s the opposite of local control. It’s someone in one town telling people in other towns, ‘You have to pay higher rates and costs because we have decided to do this.’ It’s not a free lunch.”
It seems the populace at large is not at all convinced that the system is working. Rather than take on difficult jobs and leave the easy stuff to the flaggers, it seems that the police are using their authority to collect easy money.
Police unions have fought hard to maintain local control of the issue. The detail work pays police a high hourly rate, in the $40 to $50 range, with an additional $25 or more per hour tacked on by the town for benefits and “administrative charges.”
For many officers, the detail work enhances their annual earnings in the final years before retirement, thus increasing their retirement benefit, sometimes substantially.
Think about this mindset. Police are basically part of the public union problem that Scott Walker is trying to save us from. That means that those who successfully join the police force will be the kind of people who are comfortable with this way of making money. And if they are comfortable using their power to make extra income in this way, what else are they comfortable doing for their own benefit.
Doesn’t it seem wrong that people who make money on other people’s taxes are able to use some of that money to lobby to keep people paying “taxes” in the form of higher utility costs?
(hat tip: Mish)