The State Failure on Municipal Health Care Reform

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.

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14 Responses to The State Failure on Municipal Health Care Reform

  1. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,

    Did you truly expect the powers to be to act in contrast to their union masters?

    I could really give you a ‘I told-you-so’, but I chose not to aggravate you more(in contrast to your Republican hit pieces)

    In this case you and I share a common goal.

    How about sharing a cup of coffee?



  2. Fred Mertz says:

    It is beginning to look as if our sitting Democrats are as fiscally inept as 30 years of national Republicans. Now, we’re in trouble. Gotta pop some popcorn and see what happens when the rainy day fund is flattened, and there’s still no meaningful reform. Wonder if the Commonwealth is in the mood for an income tax increase without any reform. Consulting my magic 8-ball …


    Info in older thread for you, if you’re still interested.

    The President on Health Care and Energy
    May 16, 2009



  3. Jules Gordon says:


    Do I detect that you are having an epiphany and are moving to the dark side? Actually, neither party has done well when handed the reins of power exclusively. It is a human thing, not a Democratic/Republican thing.

    I don’t know if you like taxes or not, but, you good friend Obama is now considering in a VAT tax to pay for his massive health care program. A product or service will be taxed at every stage of manufacture and then the consumer will pay a final VALUE ADDED TAX at the purchase point. Keep in mind that the VAT taxes are added to the cost of the products as it moves through the various stages of manufacture. All this is so you can have free but limited health care.

    Locally, a gas tax is now being considered as an ADDITION to the increase in sales tax. Is New Hampshire north of here?

    Well Fred are you ready for a life of low expectations?



  4. Jules Gordon says:


    I came across this report on oour accumulating debt.

    ” USA TODAY used federal data to compute all government liabilities, from Treasury bonds to Medicare to military pensions.

    Bottom line: The government took on $6.8 trillion in new obligations in 2008, pushing the total owed to a record $63.8 trillion.

    The numbers measure what’s needed today — set aside in a lump sum, earning interest — to pay benefits that won’t be covered by future taxes.

    Congress can reduce or increase the burden by changing laws that determine taxes and benefits for programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

    Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., says exploding debt has focused attention on the government’s financial challenges. “More and more, people are worried about our fiscal future,” he says.

    Key federal obligations:

    • Social Security. It will grow by 1 million to 2 million beneficiaries a year from 2008 through 2032, up from 500,000 a year in the 1990s, its actuaries say. Average benefit: $12,089 in 2008.

    • Medicare. More than 1 million a year will enroll starting in 2011 when the first Baby Boomer turns 65. Average 2008 benefit: $11,018.

    •Retirement programs. Congress has not set aside money to pay military and civil servant pensions or health care for retirees. These unfunded obligations have increased an average of $300 billion a year since 2003 and now stand at $5.3 trillion.”

    Keep in mind, Obama has already declared that we are out of money.



  5. Fred Mertz says:


    You think the dark side isn’t where I already live? I thought all liberals were evil! 😉

    I simply look at the evidence in front of me, and draw my own conclusions: no change there. I’ve had problems with Democrats and their thinking, usually even more with Republicans and their thinking (when I can detect and follow the train of logic, that is!).

    Am I ready for a life of lower expectations? Undoubtedly. Can’t expect you can run up 30 years of charges and not have to pay for it, whether you’re a government or an individual. There will be higher taxes, yes, because we haven’t been taxed enough for what we’ve been spending (we both know on whose watch that happened on …).

    But a life of lower expectations is not a bad one: never wanted to live in a McMansion when times were good. I was brought up with parents who lived through the first Depression, the lessons last a lifetime.

    Let’s try this again: I’ll grant the numbers you’ve generated in your key federal obligations points. Now, what, as a conservative, or a Republican, are you going to do about it?

    Eliminate Social Security? Eliminate Medicare? Default on military pensions? Increase the defense budget? Fight more useless wars? What?

    Don’t just state the problem: take the next step!



  6. Fred Mertz says:

    PS, all:

    The Governor is now on a web listening tour: he’s anxious to hear what you have to about ideas for reform:

    My own thoughts are that there are plenty of ideas already: the idea that’s lacking is the one labeled “execution”. Maybe I’ll post that one on each of the categories provided.



  7. Jules Gordon says:


    Because the Republican party was inept, the Democrats took the whole thing lock, stock and barrel.

    Now it’s in Obama’s hands and he is completley redefining the country. Everything is to be done by raising taxes while expanding government on its way to socialism. Democratic lemmings are providing full support and nothing else can be done that is legal.

    It’s in their hands now.



  8. Fred Mertz says:


    It may look like Obama is redefining the country, but my sense is that he’s trying to undo what I think has been the increasing amount of damage that Republicans have foisted upon us since Reagan. It’s probably no mistake that he’s studied Kennedy, because I think he’s plumbing for the sense of optimism and can-do spirit in the face of daunting odds, similar to what this nation faced in the 60’s.

    I do genuinely hope for a return to sanity by the Republicans, because Democrats of this day and age are nowhere near the caliber that they were when they were at their best and stood for something in the baby boom generation of the 50’s and 60’s. All involved have let their policy muscles atrophy from lack of use, the only thing left are the talking nonsense muscles, which seem to get ample exercise (as we are seeing at our own state level right now, as well as the national Republican level).

    Historically, Democrats have been better at running economies than Republicans have. And if Obama can walk us back from the bankruptcy edge, and start getting some GDP growth that doesn’t depend on financial / real estate bubbles, we’ll survive fine. If not, well, how well do you speak Chinese?

    PS. One day, you’re going to take up one of my challenges and take a whack at what should be done, instead of what shouldn’t. I look forward to that day …



  9. Jules Gordon says:


    Generally when the discussion between us gets difficult you jump and blame Bush or O’reilly.

    So let me tell what would have been the thing to do before your hero the Obama himself screwed the pooch.

    Lower taxes all around. The banks still needed straightening out. Car companies take care of themselves. I would cover unemployment extension to tie those without work over until things get better.

    That’s the overall. No universal health care, no cap and trade, no carbon tax. Fred I would get the government so capitalism could heal itself.

    About 2 trillion in debt saved.

    Other things would be needed, but this is the gist.



  10. Fred Mertz says:


    Quoth The Gipper: “There you go again …”

    Do you really think I’m simply falling back on a tired line? I didn’t blame O’Reilly for the economy, I blamed Republicans since Reagan. It seems to be borne out in numbers that we’ve tossed back and forth. Supply side has taken us to the brink of bankruptcy. Once, we were an example to emulate: American capitalism was the envy of the world. Now, we are the poster child of capitalism’s worst excesses. The example to avoid. Greed, as it turns out, is not so good.

    As a response to what you would do, I have only one simple question:

    Isn’t what you propose exactly what the Republican/conservative platform has been for the last 30 years?

    OK, two questions:

    And how did that turn out?

    I’m not trying to be difficult, but open your eyes and your mind, man! Can’t you see what’s happened? If you weren’t trying to win the debate and insist we double down on a policy that has demonstrably and spectacularly failed, would you concede the point?



  11. Jules Gordon says:

    Tired of blaming Bush so you go all the way back to Reagan and throw in every Republican between (except Clinton, I suppose).

    Now that’s new.


    Your buddy Jules


  12. Jules Gordon says:


    By the way, you accused Bush of accumulating 10-12T dollars in debt. I asked for your source. Is it available?



  13. Fred Mertz says:


    For the info you’ve asked for, see my post above (May 29, 8:41am), which references another thread where your information lies. What, you’re not reading my stuff? I’m hurt.

    And, surprisingly enough, we did discuss before how Clinton raised taxes during his tenure, GDP went up, deficits turned into surpluses, and the debt was reduced (I think I was laughing at Laffer at the time). So, pretty much yes, all Republicans since Reagan have had a major hand in this problem. Even Reagan acknowledged long after the fact that the biggest regret is that he let deficits get out of control. You must not have had your Republican hearing aid turned up!

    Look at the numbers from the source in the referenced thread. Draw graphs if you must. I even gave you Heritage Foundation sources in the fall, showing the same things …

    If you loved my previous sources, you’ll love this one: numbers that show how much better economies do under Democrats than they do under Republicans …

    Letsee: you own Hoover, W, and Reagan. We have FDR, Kennedy, and Clinton. It’s not even a close contest …

    Ask and you shall receive, anytime, my right honorable friend!



  14. Jules Gordon says:

    Sorry Fred,

    I see you reference. I was looking for a youTube entry in blue. I will check it out.



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