Monday, February 15, 2010

NOT Cutting Health Care Benefits for Michigan Lawmakers

Michigan Radio reports on the coming vote in the Michigan Senate to end Michigan's overly generous health care benefits for ONLY the future lawmakers in Lansing:

The measure to eliminate retirement benefits for lawmakers would only apply to future lawmakers, and not current or former lawmakers. Majority Leader Bishop says he knows that leaves current legislators wide open for criticism from the public.

"Sure. Sure it does," says Bishop, "We'll never do enough in terms of legislator health care, pay - unless legislators somehow work for free and have no benefits."

The measure has already been approved by the state House, and the Senate is expected to pass it as well.

Unfortunately, Michigan lawmakers are still considering a proposal to make all public employees pay 20% of their health care benefits.

They expect to somehow bring into line the contributions to the costs of health care benefits that public sector employees pay with the costs that private sector employees pay for their health care benefits.  This apples to oranges comparison is troubling at best, and could be seen as punitive at its worse.  This is a controversial proposal when considering that public school employees have traditionally settled contracts with local school districts with less salary while maintaining the health care benefits fought for over the course of many many years.  This proposal by Michigan legislators is also seen as glaringly hypocritical given the Legislatures' reluctance to eliminate or reduce the generous health care benefits they have voted themselves over many many years.

If Michigan lawmakers succeed in pushing forward their 20% solution it may become a ballot issue in the November election.  That seems to me to be every Republican teacher-bashers' wet dream, as the public gets to vote on a "teacher contract".  The proposal is divisive and could pit the public against their child's favorite teacher.  If Senator Bishop is serious about this sort of "education reform", then he should consider grander actions that involve ONLY new teachers hired in some distant year.  But, get the other details worked out first -- a state-wide teacher salary, state-wide health care benefits package, state-wide text book and curriculum adoption, and other REAL reforms.

There are certainly better ideas out there to improve education and lower the costs of delivering it.  Bishop's idea is just plain wrong-headed.


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