Universities, think tanks, and community organizations in California continually churn out studies and reports to prove that state agencies and local governments need to spend more and regulate more. This flood of studies overwhelms the small number released each year in California to support public policies based on free markets and limited government. Why the disparity in academic research?

It’s possible that concepts of free markets and limited government are so intellectually fraudulent and morally bankrupt that no scholarly expert would compromise his or her academic reputation by studying such nonsense. Or it could simply be a matter of funding availability.

Policy organizations on both the Left and the Right receive commissions and funding from foundations and other non-profit organizations established as social welfare organizations. But the Left in California gets two additional sources of funding: union-affiliated labor-management cooperation committees and public agencies.

Public agencies seem eager to fund projects that will justify spending more taxpayer money and increasing government authority. For example, consider the $1,590,000 in grants awarded by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (of the San Francisco Bay Area) on February 5, 2014.

  Project Organization Grant Amount
East Bay Skills Alliance Contra Costa Community College District $75,000
Santa Clara County Health Services Workforce Collaborative Community Health Partnership $150,000
A Blueprint for Creating Pathways to Ownership for Low and ModerateIncome Workers in the SF Bay Area: The Inner East Bay as A Case Study East Bay Community Law Center $150,000
Improved Skills, Better Wages and New Opportunities for Latino Day Laborers and Other Immigrant Low-Income Workers Multicultural Institute $75,000
Bay Area Tech Career Advancement Initiative NOVA Workforce Development $150,000
Promoting Economic Opportunity at the Fremont Warm Springs BART Station Urban Habitat $50,000
Construction Careers Initiative Working Partnerships USA $125,000
Self-Employment and the Road to Economic Security Sonoma County Economic Development Board $75,000
Formula Retail Sector Economic Opportunity Project San Francisco Bay Area Labor Foundation $100,000
Success Concord Concord Community Development Organization – Michael Chavez Center $100,000
Laying the Groundwork for Inclusive Growth in San Mateo County through the Creation of New Funding Sources and Adoption of Updated Housing Elements Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County $75,000
Healthy Havenscourt Neighborhood East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC) $45,000
Housing Our Workforce: Funding Affordable Housing through State, Regional, and Local Sources Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California $80,000
Map Your Future Project Bay Localize $75,000
Community Engagement for Public Benefits Zoning in Oakland Public Development Authorities (PDAs) East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO) $40,000
A New Vision for the Bay Area Gamaliel of California $50,000
Oakland Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative Capacity Building PolicyLink $20,000
Black Regional Resilience Project People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER) $25,000
Planning Institute for Leadership Urban Habitat $90,000
Promoting Equity in Affordable Housing Youth United for Community Action (YUCA) $40,000
  Total $1,590,000

What kind of reports will result from these 20 grants? Based on my experience thoroughly analyzing two recent studies produced by one of these grant recipients, taxpayers will get flawed, biased reports promoting more government intervention in commerce and more funding for government programs.

As indicated in the chart above, $125,000 was granted from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to Working Partnerships USA for a “Construction Careers Initiative.” Working Partnerships USA is a union-oriented policy organization based in San José. It has recently specialized in studies on union-backed policies for public works construction.

Union lobbyists and elected officials cite its work frequently to state and local governments. I have produced two reports questioning the validity of these studies.

Study Rebuttal
Economic, Fiscal and Social Impacts of Prevailing Wage in San Jose, California (April 2011) Report Defending State-Mandated Construction Wage Rates (“Prevailing Wage”) As Beneficial to Taxpayers Not a Credible Tool For Decision Makers (August 2013)
Effect of Project Labor Agreements on Local Business Utilization in Santa Clara County, California (October 2012) Sixteen Flaws in the October 2012 Working Partnerships USA Argument for Project Labor Agreements on Community College District Construction in Santa Clara County (December 2012)

How many of the other 19 Metropolitan Transportation Commission grant recipients are making policy claims that cannot withstand logical scrutiny? The public also deserves an analysis of the policy reports that these organizations have produced over the past few years.

Likewise, California taxpayers deserve greater scrutiny of studies and reports produced by taxpayer-funded university institutes. For example, the University of California Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, an affiliate of the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program, publishes an academic journal called Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society.

In October 2012, this journal published an article by a University of Utah economics professor and two other researchers concerning prevailing wage laws at local governments in the San Francisco Bay Area. It claimed to prove that government-mandated wage rates on construction contracts have not negatively impacted bidding for public works projects in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Once again, I was able to examine the data and findings and respond to them.

Study Rebuttal
The Effect of Prevailing Wage Regulations on Contractor Bid Participation and Behavior: A Comparison of Palo Alto, California with Four Nearby Prevailing Wage Municipalities (October 2012) University of Utah Study on Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Policies in Five California Cities: Not a Reliable Tool for Policymakers (April 2014)

Just because a university or think tank issues a report does not mean the report is credible. There needs to be an organized, well-funded effort in California to analyze and determine the validity of the flood of reports and studies produced in support of the “Progressive” political agenda.

Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.