Friday, July 31, 2009

Read Between the Lines

The Preliminary Delaware Government Performance Review is out. As a former state (not DE) policy guy I am dubious of these types of reports. Policy people who by discipline know how to look at long-term effects are often pushed aside by ideologues in these type of initiatives.

State employees including school employees should be concerned about the recommendations in the areas of health care and pension.

This direct quote from the report reflects an attitude we have seen from the SEBC: "Currently, state employees pay between 3.1% and 10.5% of the State's total premium costs depending on the plan and coverage level. National averages are closer to 15% for employee only coverage. The Delaware State Employees Benefits Committee (SEBC) has already approved the first phase of a plan to bring state employee contributions for health care costs closer to national averages."

First, our benefits are not out of line for other public employee groups. Public entities have long offered good benefits in lieu of salaries. In other words the skill level and education required for many public jobs were not competitive in salary with the private sector, so benefits were used as an enticement for public service.

Additionally, until recently, public employers wanted to be standard bearers for good employment practices. Apparently, there are some decision makers these days who want to join the race down. This last point is significant. In Delaware the state is the largest employer. All working people in Delaware should be concerned with what happens to state workers. The state will be a trend setter.

Finally, of note in this section is a reference to the SEBC initiating phase one of a plan to bring health benefits closer to the private sector national average. So, is that what the recent premium hike was, not a response to claims verses premium, but a plan to reduce benefits?

The report also goes after Double State Share health benefit: "The General Assembly will be asked to eliminate the Double State Share program to require employees and pensioners who are married and work for the State to pay the same employee contributions as other state employees."

If all of this is not enough to make your blood boil, you should also know that the pension section is not much better. "The state should consider creating a new tier of pension benefits for employees hired after a certain date."

Highlights (or low lights) of the new tier: Remove the early retirement provision; change the multiplier from 1.85% to 1.67%; eliminate $7,000 burial benefit; increase member contributions to 3% of salary; if less than 20 years service, the employee pays 100% of coverage.

In conclusion, if you are a DSEA member, support your union, pay your dues, contribute to PAC, care about one another, and hang on it's going to be a bumpy ride.

No comments:

Post a Comment