The Senate passed their version of the budget for fiscal year 2012 yesterday evening with no changes in the municipal health care measures proposed by the Ways and Means Committee.

It includes provisions for a 30-day negotiating period (with more room for input from employee committees than the House plan), an impartial three-member panel to settle any undecided changes after the 30-day period, and the requirement of local approval for adoption. If the plan proposed by a municipality puts a greater portion of the cost onto employees than the average GIC plan does, then the panel can consider proposals that unions put forward. Two thirds of estimated savings are guaranteed to the municipalities.

Read the MMA's summary of the Senate's plan here. Check out our point-by-point comparison of this plan and previously proposed plans from this year, and read more background, here.

Now, a committee will reconcile the House and Senate Budgets and submit a draft to both houses for final approval, then put the budget before the governor to sign.
 
 
Very interesting from yesterday's Boston Globe: When House members voted to reform municipal health care benefits, union leaders went on the warpath.

"But now, as the Senate prepares to debate its bill, unions have issued a conciliatory press release, and tried to put a positive spin on the developments.  The changed tactics reflect shifting political ground and a tacit acknowledgement that their earlier hardball tactics did not work in an economy that has hit city and town budgets hard."

What this means is that municipal health care reform has an excellent chance of actually getting passed within the next month.

If you haven't already contacted your state senator, now is the time!! Literally it could be any minute so today or tomorrow we need you to make that call or email!
 
 
A recent report from the Pew Center on the States shows that the Massachusetts state pension system is only 68% funded. The Government Accountability Office recommends that funding levels be at a minimum of 80%. The report shows how deeply the recession has hit all the states; the average level of funding for state pension systems is down 6% since 2008.

Oddly enough, the only state that has a surplus in pension funding is New York. If New York can do it, we can do it, right? Let's keep the promises we make to our retirees. Massachusetts needs pension reform!
 
 
We're closer than we've ever been to real reform for the municipal health care system that's draining resources from our cities and towns.

But it's not going to happen without you.

Tomorrow the state Senate will debate their budget for fiscal year 2012. Municipal health care reform is estimated to save taxpayers $100 million annually.

We need you to call or email your State Senator tomorrow (Wed May 25).  Give your State Senator the following message:


  • Give cities and towns the same plan design authority the state has to determine health care plans for their employees without a negotiating window.
  • Make reform mandatory. A local option for adoption of plan design will be a huge blockade to reform, and Massachusetts cannot afford any more of this waste.
  • Voters are paying attention, and will hold their State Senators accountable on this issue.
 
 
Last week, the Senate Ways & Means Committee released their version of the budget for fiscal year 2012. The budget contains a plan for municipal health care reform that looks similar, but not identical, to the House plan. It includes provisions for a 30-day negotiating period (with more room for input from employee committees than the House plan), an impartial three-member panel to settle any undecided changes after the 30-day period, and the requirement of local approval for adoption. If the plan proposed by a municipality puts a greater portion of the cost onto employees than the average GIC plan does, then the panel can consider proposals that unions put forward. Two thirds of estimated savings are guaranteed to the municipalities.

For a great explanation of the measures included, read the MMA's summary here. For an updated version of our own point-by-point comparison of all the proposed plans, click here.
 
 
Read this summary of the corruption trial of former House Speaker Sal DiMasi and it's hard not to agree with the author's assessment that "The political system described by witnesses and lawyers on both sides of the DiMasi case is one that’s wired for moneyed insiders, controlled by a few powerful politicians, and abetted by a servile Legislature."
 
 
I went to a meeting the other night of a new national group called No Labels. Their philosophy and goals are very much in line with Voters Count in terms of a focus on fiscal responsibility and empowering citizens to demand better results from our elected leaders. 

While they are a national group (as opposed to our effort which is Massachusetts-based), they are organizing in all 50 states including here.  I attended their launch in New York City last December and so far am really impressed with their growth and approach.

For more details visit www.nolabels.org.

 
 
The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation released a town-by-town analysis on Tuesday that estimates how much money--or how many jobs--municipalities could have saved by switching employees to GIC health care in 2001. The results are staggering. You can search the report by town or by senate district to find information for your area (just make sure you're sitting down). This report shows just how badly Massachusetts needs real reform.

Read the press release explaining the findings here, and then download the chart:

mtf_municipal_health_spreadsheet_press_release.pdf
File Size: 147 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

mtf_municipal_health_costs_by_community.xls
File Size: 340 kb
File Type: xls
Download File

 
 
Big difference in views on municipal health care reform between the 2 candidates to replace Peter Koutoujian as State Representative in the 10th Middlesex district.  If you live there and this issue matters to you... vote accordingly!
 
 
From the Sunday Boston Globe: the House vote to remove health care plan design from collective bargaining for municipal unions was a "seismic rebuke to labor that has stunned combatants on both sides of the union-management divide." Click here to read in entirety.