Jul 10, 2015

MA 2016 Budget Update

The final Fiscal Year 2016 budget was approved by the Massachusetts legislature on July 8, 2015 and was shipped to Governor Charlie Baker’s desk. As this year’s budget process concludes, we are pleased to report that we were able to hold the line on the health insurance premium splits, thanks to the efforts of NAGE President David Holway and NAGE's legislative team, Raymond McGrath and Jim Redmond, their meetings with leadership, and your continual contact with members of the legislature throughout the process.

While our proposal to win an 80/20 GIC split for all workers across the board was not accepted by the legislature, it was seriously reviewed and considered. In fact, several legislators have approached us and indicated that, in light of the now real impact of the co-pay and deductible increases, our plan was the way to go and the right way to mitigate the added economic burden on state employees.

Additionally, we were able to assist the Trial Court in increasing their operational line item by approximately $25 million.  As you may recall, the governor’s proposal grossly underfunded the Trial Court, which would have resulted in massive disruptions to our entire judicial system.

The remainder of the budget seems to be responsible, but we will continue to monitor issues as they arise in relation to our ever-changing economic climate. Please contact us with departmental-level concerns that we may be able to assist with as the new fiscal year gets underway.

One major downside of the budget was the suspension of the Taxpayer Protection Act (Pacheco Law) for a period of three years at the MBTA. As you may recall, the governor proposed eliminating the law altogether, and the House proposed a five-year suspension at the MBTA. The Senate did not endorse either plan, voting to keep the law in place.  However, the issue became a sticking point in conference committee and the House and Senate ultimately agreed to a three-year suspension of the law at the MBTA.

During yesterday’s Senate debate on the conference report, Senator Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton) did a commendable job of framing the discussion around the real dangers posed by suspension of the Taxpayer Protection Act.  Sen. Pacheco cited the Senate’s ongoing work on wage inequality and efforts to close the wage gap as directly contrary to suspending the law at the T.

Sen. Pacheco said yesterday that he was not seeking to reject the budget; he was merely seeking to reject the conference committee report and recommit the conferees to further discussion on the issue.  Four senators joined with Sen. Pacheco in voting to reject the report, and of those, one of the most remarkable votes came from Senator Dan Wolf (D-Harwich). As chief executive of Cape Air, Sen. Wolf has been a well-known private sector leader and businessman for several decades.

Sen. Wolf stood with Sen. Pacheco, saying, "There is a direct correlation between bargaining rights and what has happened to the middle class and the working poor and it has to stop sometime. Privatization is a hollow process."

The message that privatization is wrong, not only for the workers but ultimately for the taxpayers who will be left holding the bill once the promise of lower costs is replaced by the reality of profit margins, was delivered but unheeded as the vast majority of senators voted to accept the conference report.

Under the Taxpayer Protection Act, the state auditor has the authority to review requests to privatize, and eighty percent (80%) of those requests have been granted. The fact is that the Taxpayer Protection Act has worked for 22 years, and the notion that it doesn’t work has been perpetrated by big business and the groups that carry their water, like the Pioneer Institute and the Mass. Taxpayers Foundation.

As the fight against wage inequality continues, the middle and working class suffered a defeat yesterday, but the war is not over.

The American Labor Movement has consistently demonstrated its devotion to the public interest. It is, and has been, good for all America. - John F. Kennedy
NAGE HEADQUARTERS 159 Burgin Parkway
Quincy, MA 02169
Main Phone: (617)376-0220
Main Fax: (617)984-5695
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