Important column by Scot Lehigh today pointing out that the governor may not be as much of a reformer on the municipal health care issue as he has proclaimed:

"The section of Patrick’s legislation that would bring this about is all of four sentences long. The last sentence merits particular attention. It would grant the secretary of administration and finance power to issue regulations “determining the extent to which reduced costs to the municipality resulting from adoption of coverage under this section shall be shared with the municipality’s employees."... So would local employees get some of the savings, estimated at about $100 million in year one? And if they do, would that happen just in the first year, or will that sharing be a permanent arrangement?"

The devil, as always, is in the details. Please call Governor Patrick's office and tell him you expect REAL REFORM, not faux reform that merely moves the money around but still ends up benefiting a small group of insiders rather than the taxpayers.
 
 
Yesterday's Globe had the stunning news that Governor Patrick has changed his position on authorizing municipal leaders to unilaterally change their employees' health care plans.

Patrick had previously signed a bill allowing cities and towns to move employees to the state plan (GIC) but only if at least 70% of union employees agreed to the move. More recently he has stated he would approve reducing that percentage to 50%, which we believe would still be enough to block it in most cases.

Now, according to this article, "Patrick joined House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo in calling for a significant curtailing of organized labor’s influence over the health care plans of municipal employees, retirees, and elected officials, proposing that cities and towns receive far greater power to enact major changes without union assent." (bold added for emphasis)

WOW! It seems that this governor, who came into office with big plans for what he would spend money on but not a whole lot of details on where the money would come from, has finally seen the light in terms of the benefits of fiscal reform: i.e. that if you want to invest in X, it's way better to find the money to pay for it via reforms and efficiency rather than hitting up the taxpayer, especially when a bunch of them are out of work or have seen their hours slashed.

In fact this point was made even more clearly in this Globe editorial from the same day - the governor told local officials that he's cutting local aid, but they can get it back via savings in health care costs. This is what taxpayers want to see - reform before tax increases.

This Democrat may end up outshining any of the 4 previous Republican governors in his record of reform.
 
 
From the New York Times last week:  "Policymakers are working behind the scenes to come up with a way to let states declare bankruptcy and get out from under crushing debts, including the pensions they have promised to retired public workers."
 
 
Ok this is pretty big news... Governor Deval Patrick and legislative leaders are calling for a big change in pension benefits for state workers: "Virtually all future state employees would work five years longer, contribute more to their pensions, and would no longer receive incentives to retire early under a bill Governor Deval Patrick and legislative leaders announced today." Read the whole article here

This plan does maintain a public pension system, which means public sector workers will continue to have a more stable retirement than other workers, in that their pension benefits are not subject to the whims of the stock market. But this plan is fairer in terms of the age of retirement and in terms of requiring workers to fund more of their own retirement. And it is also more affordable for the taxpayer, which means more funds are available for current government services that we all rely upon.

If you agree that this plan is a good one, tell the governor! Here is how to contact him. And also tell your state senator and state rep - here is how to contact them.
 
 
New Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy is facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit and has asked state workers for their ideas on how to close it. “The suggestions have been flowing in ever since.  A nurse was among many state workers who told Malloy they are willing to continue taking off days without pay... Several other employees suggested the state stop printing pay stubs for workers whose paychecks are deposited directly into their bank accounts."


 
 
Very interesting cover story from The Economist. It gives all the usual reasons for the need to revamp public sector benefits, but this line in particular spoke to me: "With ageing populations needing ever more state help, the left should have as much interest as the right in an efficient state sector (perhaps more so, as it thinks government is the way to right society’s ills)."  Fiscal responsibility should not be "owned" by one political party or the other, as all sides benefit when taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.
 
 
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It's not just the private sector that is moving away from pension plans... the Boston Globe reported last month that the Boston Archdiocese is freezing its pension plan for lay employees and switching to a 401(k) style plan. Read the article here
 
 
From yesterday's New York Times:  Rahm Emanuel, who served as chief of staff to President Obama and left that post to run for mayor of Chicago, is calling for reduced pension benefits not only for new hires but even for current workers.
 
 
From today's Globe: THE SO-CALLED Pacheco law doesn’t just keep government agencies from saving money by hiring outside contractors to perform certain services. It also sends a broad message: In Massachusetts, the demands of special-interest groups — in this case, public-employee unions — can outweigh the obligation to run government efficiently." Voters Count agrees! (Read our summary of the Pacheco Law here.)