Today’s Tribune cites the total failure of the State Legislature to enact any health care reform that would aid municipalities. And although this issue has been discussed many times prior on this blog today’s editorial requires me to discuss this one more time (at least). The municipal health care provisions in the Municipal Relief Act are not only not an improvement, they are a huge step back. In an attempt to be seen as being evenhanded while actually undercutting the municipalities ability to save taxpayer money the legislation is a mess, with unworkable benchmarking, unworkable timelines, and the piece de resistance, the reimposition of binding arbitration. From the Tribune editorial:
Binding arbitration was abolished following passage of Proposition 21/2 in 1980 as a means of helping communities deal with the new restrictions on property-tax collections. Yet now, even with the economy at its lowest point since the Great Depression and cities and towns facing their worst budget crises since Prop 21/2, those on Beacon Hill are actually contemplating a return to a system that would allow an arbitrator to impose contract terms on municipalities regardless of their affordability.
“This is not acceptable, and it is not reform,” the Massachusetts Municipal Association declared in testimony before the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government earlier this month.
Rather, it’s a step backward, as both the MMA and the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation contend.
Yes it is a huge step backwards, and the net result is a higher cost to municipal taxpayers. What else does the Tribune say?
The Senate version of the bill incorporates a complicated system of determining the average cost of health insurance per city or town employee, and threatens those communities whose costs exceed those of the state Group Insurance Commission with the loss of state aid. Yet it does not remove local unions’ ability to veto membership in the GIC, nor does it give municipal officials the same authority the GIC has to determine what sort of plan is offered to employees.
The municipalities want the same rights as the Governor and the Legislature to create health plan design? What a novel idea. The state, through this ridiculous bill, still stops us from exercising the same right they have over the health care plan of state employees.
As the Rosenberg/Donato Commission unveiled its health care provisions they tried to sell the idea that they had treated municipalities in an evenhanded way. And they appear to have gotten away with it, to some degree. Where were the municipal leaders speaking in favor of this provision? Can anyone point to one municipal leader that is in favor of this health care proposal? When you ask that question all you get are crickets chirping in the background. The conference committee should kill this turkey, even if it means no change to the current system. Read the editorial in the Eagle Tribune here.