While "consolidation of government services" sounds pretty dry, this is actually really important. Today's Globe reports that the Boston Foundation and Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation believe $65 million a year could be saved by consolidating social service and public health programs. The article is here.
Yesterday's NY Times ran an opinion piece on the dire choices facing states, including Massachusetts, that have long underfunded their pension plans.
"The market forced private employers like General Motors to restructure retirement plans or suffer bankruptcy. Government’s greater ability to borrow enables it to defer hard choices but, as Greece discovered, not even governments can borrow forever. The days when state officials may shield their workers while subjecting all other constituents to hardship are fast at an end."
According to today's Globe, State House and Senate legislators agreed on a $27.6 billion budget plan for next fiscal year that would require all government offices to remain open on Bunker Hill Day and Evacuation Day. The full House & Senate will vote on the budget today and then it goes to Governor Patrick's desk to sign. He has said in the past that he supports eliminating those 2 paid holidays.
The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune reports that taxpayers in that debt-laden city spent $27,000 on overtime for firefighters over Memorial Day weekend. And this is at a time when the city is facing 35 police layoffs next year, meaning "no gang patrols, drug patrols, auto insurance fraud investigations or burglary apprehensions."
City & town managers, not just in Lawrence but across the Commonwealth, have to decide how to spend scarce public resources. If you're spending it on overtime, you're not spending it on something else that may be more valuable to your citizens.
This New York Times article talks about the steps many states are taking to pare down their pension costs, including in the case of Colorado, even cutting back on benefits for current retirees.
“We’re within a few years of having some of the pension funds run out of money,” said R. Eden Martin, president of the Commercial Club of Chicago, a business group that has been warning of a “financial implosion” for several years. “Funding for the schools is going to be cut radically. Funding for Medicaid. As these things all mount up, there’s going to be a lot of outrage.”
(The article does not mention Massachusetts but we have a pension liability of nearly 15 billion dollars.)
If you live in Suffolk County, don't bother trying to use any public services... they're on vacation. (Take action to end this waste!)
The Globe reports today that the UMass Building Authority Board voted 9 to 2 in favor of requiring a union workforce for $750 million makeover of the UMass Boston campus. Proponents justify the higher labor cost as being "a worthwhile insurance policy against a disruptive labor dispute." (Is it just me or does this sound like a protection racket?)
This points to a larger problem: Massachusetts' infrastructure is in desperate need of repair. The backlog has been estimated to be $17-20 billion. We cannot afford to inflate construction costs by an estimated $100 million when we have so many urgent infrastructure needs.
We have uploaded the history of Pacheco Law votes... see here
While it's not a statewide issue but rather a Boston issue, it is still relevant for all Massachusetts taxpayers in that it sets a precedent that all union negotiators will look at - Boston firefighters ended up with less than they wanted, but they are still 1) getting paid more for agreeing to come to work sober; and 2) getting generous raises at a time when the cost of living adjustment is zero, and many taxpayers are out of work or seeing their wages and hours cut.
And that stinks.
The Globe's editorial today is spot on)
Eliminating Bunker Hill Day and Evacuation Day as paid holidays for state workers would save the state $5-6 million, according to the Mass. Taxpayers Foundation.
$6 million is also how much the state lacks to "renovate or preserve Massachusetts park and recreational facilities", according to this Globe opinion piece.
There is a finite supply of taxpayer money. We expect our elected officials to spend it wisely on our behalf. Spending it on 2 additional paid holidays for state workers instead of fixing up the parks that are for the enjoyment of all of us is an outrage.
(See here for how to take action to end these frivolous holidays!)