Jan 20, 2010

So-called reforms are just same old attacks on state workers

Reform: “the improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt, unsatisfactory, etc.”

Someone needs to send Senate Republicans copy of a dictionary, and once again, their idea of reform is to cut state worker’s pay. Senate Republicans released their so-called “government reforms” on Tuesday, and the target was their favorite whipping boy, public employees.
They are calling for a constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot in August to require government workers to take a 5 percent pay cut and pay 20 percent of their health insurance premiums. But they expanded their attack to snare all levels of government employees- elected officials like the governor and legislators, state employees, local government employees, teachers and others. Even though Michigan’s economy has changed with the huge loss of manufacturing jobs, the proposal did not include a single tax reform proposal.

It would also cap administrative costs in school districts at 28 percent of the entire district budget, and the proposal also targets the poor; eliminating yet-to-be-determined optional services under Medicaid. After the last budget year eliminated dental benefits, I’m not sure what else they can eliminate. Apparently, the proposal would also eliminate collective barraging, but Republicans hate unions even more than they hate state workers.

This is just another campaign tactic from the GOP caucus where the majority are running for statewide office.

“While reforming how government does business is of critical importance, there are other issues that matter to Michigan families,” said Mike Prusi, D-Ishpeming, the Senate Democratic leader. “I encourage my colleagues from across the aisle to take action on several additional legislative issues before our chamber, including foreclosure assistance, lowering of insurance rates and Hire Michigan First. Reforms will help us in the future, these other proposals help families today.”

State workers have continued to make sacrifices to balance the state budget. In the current budget that was just passed in October that had a $1.5 billon shortfall, it included $28 million in concessions from state employees, and the layoff of 1,500 state employees. State employees have made concessions that have saved the state more than $3.7 billion since 2001.

The myth that state employees are overpaid and state government continues to grow has already been debunked. In August, respected Michigan State University professor of economics Charles Ballard issued a report that said state employees earn less than their private-sector counterparts with comparable educational attainment. It also confirmed what we already know: state government is smaller now than it was in 1973. In fact, state government is only about 80 percent of what it was at the beginning of this decade, and it’s going to get smaller.

The proposal would also eliminate so-called “lifetime health care benefits” for retired legislators who have not vested before January 1, 2010. That’s simply not true. It kicks in only after they are finished with their entire maximum term they can serve and it kicks in at age 55 and is in force until they reach age 65 when Medicare kicks in. It seems Republicans only want the independently wealthy and the retired to serve in the Legislature.

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