Michigan’s lawmakers are pondering big reforms to public employee compensation, and rightly so. Salary and benefit costs represent the vast majority of spending at every level of government. Getting a handle on unruly budgets means getting a handle on those expenses.
But legislators won’t be credible voices in that cause until they trim their own lavish benefits. If Lansing’s policy setters aren’t first in line for sacrifice, other public employees will accuse them of hypocrisy.
And they’ll be right.
...the savings from denying lifetime health care to lawmakers would be small. In the 2007-2008 fiscal year, the Michigan Legislative Retirement System spent $4.72 million on health and dental care for 341 retired members, according to the House Fiscal Agency. Against a $1.7 billion budget deficit this year, that prospective payoff pales.
But that’s not the point. The measure isn’t aimed primarily at saving the state money. Ending this comfy benefit is simply the right thing to do.
Lawmakers should lead by example, recognize what Michigan workers have faced, and share the pain.
Once they’ve done that, state leaders can legitimately ask other public employees to sacrifice, too.