Can taxpayers have a say?Published 9:58am Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Minnesota taxpayers are being asked to pay more to protect the union status quo.
The tentative contract agreements negotiated by Governor Mark Dayton with the state’s two largest unions — AFSCME and MAPE — include a 2 percent across-the-board increase beginning in January, as well as seniority-based step increases to eligible employees. For some AFSCME employees, this represents a 2.75 percent increase in fiscal year 2012 and a 4.75 percent biennial increase over the base in fiscal year 2013. For some MAPE employees, it totals a 3.5 percent increase in fiscal year 2012 and a 5.5 percent biennial increase over the base in fiscal year 2013.
And that’s not all. Along with the salary increase, the unions and Gov. Mark Dayton also maintain what can only be described as free taxpayer-paid health insurance for their members.
The new contracts total a $59 million increase in fiscal year 2013, which is $13 million more than the automatic escalations baked into the current contract. Accepting the contracts would position Minnesota taxpayers to pay for an additional $174 million for contract costs in fiscal year 2014-2015.
Having state employees pay some of their health insurance premiums like everyone else is far from unreasonable. Neither is asking for pay increases to be based on performance.
Over 50,000 state employees do not pay a dime for the premium on their state health insurance policy. In addition to their free individual coverage, state employees are given dependent coverage when they pay roughly $130 a month in total to fully cover their family. It costs taxpayers nearly $500 million per biennium to provide these 50,000 enrolled workers with fully paid health insurance premiums. With a forecasted premium increase of 9 percent in 2013, Gov. Dayton expects taxpayers to cover these costs rather than asking state employees to pay a fair share.
The new contract also ignores pay for performance reforms recommended by the Minnesota Legislature. Preserving the status quo of rewarding employees for length of service is a poor proxy for employee value and performance.
The Subcommittee on Employee Relations recently denied ratification of these tentative contracts. We encourage Governor Dayton to go back to the bargaining table to bring forward an agreement that rewards employees based on performance and requires them to pay a portion of their health insurance premiums.
Minnesotans should recognize they are being asked to pay more for an unacceptable status quo and urge Governor Dayton to renegotiate the new contract. In the meantime, AFSCME and MAPE union members are operating under their existing contracts, which provide them with autopilot wage increases and continued free health insurance.