Legislative Update

Posted In: News, State,   From Issue 768   By: Robert E Martin

18th April, 2013     0

Average Michigan Government Employee Compensation Exceeds Six Figures for the First Time
In the latest edition of Michigan Capitol Confidential journalist Jack Spencer reports that for the first time in our state's history, the average salary and benefit package for state employees surpassed $100,000 a year in 2011-2012.
Despite protestations and rhetoric from Republicans & Democrats about the need to 'shrink' government and create competition by moving Michigan to a 'Right to Work' state, Spencer reports that the average combined cost of salary and benefits for a state worker jumped to $104,067 in 2011-12, increasing from $97,883 in 2010-11.
James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, did the analysis using the Michigan Civil Service Commission's certified aggregate payroll. When factoring in inflation, the cost of benefits for a state employee has increased 75 percent since 1998-99. Overall, average compensation has risen 31 percent over the past 13 years.
The 2011-12 fiscal year was the first involving Gov. Rick Snyder and the number of state full-time jobs remained almost the same. There were 47,818 full-time equivalent employees in 2010-11. That dropped to 47,802 in 2011-12.
The state's total pay base decreased from $2.87 billion in 2010-11 to $2.81 billion in 2011-12. But the cost of benefits increased from $1.8 billion to $2.2 billion in 2011-12. A little more than $350 million of the increased costs of benefits was attributed to the state starting to pre-fund employees' retirement heath care, according to Hohman.
The cost of a state employee has risen steadily since 1998-99, when the average cost of pay and benefits was $79,409, when adjusted for inflation. And while the state's full-time workforce has dropped from 60,802 in 1998-99 to 47,802 in 2011-12, the state's cost for benefits has risen from $1.23 billion in 1998-99 when factoring inflation to $2.16 billion in 2011-12, a 76 percent increase.
Hohman says the costs for the state are going to increase if it doesn't cut retiree health care. He added that state employees won't see any extra money, but the state will pay much more to make up for past years when retiree health care was not pre-funded.
New Bills to Watch
Here's a few bills to watch, reported by Michiganvotes.org:
* House Bill 4042: Require match of welfare applicants against incarceration lists: Passed 109 to 1 in the House.  Introduced by Saginaw's new State Rep Tim Kelly, this bill would require the Department of Human Services to perform a monthly jail and prison 'incarceration match' and Social Security 'death match' to help determine eligibility for a welfare and food stamp benefit 'bridge cards' and revoke the card of a person on those lists. This would codify in statute what is reportedly current department practices.
* Senate Bill 78: Restrict setting aside state land for 'biological diversity'. Passed 26 to 11 in the Senate. Introduced by Sen. Tom Casperson. In a bizarre twist of what the Department of Natural Resources is empowered and charged with doing (i.e.: protecting our natural resources) this bill would prohibit the DNR from designating an area of state land specifically for the purpose of achieving 'biological diversity'; and no longer require the DNR to manage forests in a manner that promotes “restoration”. This would also remove from a statute a legislative 'finding' that most losses of biological diversity result from human activity. 
* Senate Bill 61: Convert Blue Cross to Non-Profit 'Regular' Insurance Company. Passed 36 to 0 in the Senate. Introduced by Sen. Joe Hune.  This bill would convert Blue Cross Blue Shield into a “mutual insurance company” and make it subject to the same regulations as a regular health insurer. Although it would remain a non-profit, current restrictions on the entitity's ability to own for-profit subsidiaries would be reduced, and it would not longer be subject to close oversight by the state Attorney General.
In return for being granted this conversion, BCBS would pay “up to” $1.56 billion over 18 years (meaning it could be less) into a fund that would supplement various health-related government programs, with specific funding items selected by a board of political appointees. The bill does not include abortion restrictions that caused Gov. Snyder to veto the same measure when passed late last year.
* The State Board of Canvassers conducted a special meeting on April 17th to consider an amended initiative petition submitted for approval by the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, 9330 Boyne City Rd., Charlevoix. The petition proposed to amend the Natural Resources & Environmental Protection Act to prohibit the use of horizontal hydraulic fracturing. The next hard deadline for the petition is July, 2014; and the soft deadline is 180 days from first to last signature.  With six more fracking wells approved in Kalkaska county, the fear is that this will be happening too late to stop the irreparable damage and destruction that fracking has been proven to cause to both human health and the environment.


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