Year End Legislative Update
December 20, 2013
The Michigan Legislature is halfway through the 2013-2014 session. On some fronts, issues remain in flux. The recent changes to the Michigan Court of Claims will have an as yet undetermined impact on litigation over payroll deductions for state employees’ pensions. The Civil Service Commission has also put off a decision on a new state employee contract until their January 15 meeting. The Governor and Legislature are also putting together recommendations for next year’s budget process – a process that will be made more interesting with the recent projections of large budget surpluses in the upcoming year.
The Legislature will be on recess through the holiday season and plans to return to session on January 8.
Civil Service Commission Discusses Then Tables Decision on State Employee Contract
In late December, the Michigan Civil Service Commission met to discuss a proposed new contract for state employees. The contract recommended by an impasse panel would have included a 2% raise for state employees for each of the next two fiscal years. The impasse panel also recommended that current state employees all be placed into the same health care plan that newly hired state workers are being placed into. Organizations representing state workers had asked for a 3% wage increase for each of the next two years, and opposed the shift in health care plans.
The Civil Service Commission debated a proposal to adopt the 2% increase recommended by the impasse panel, but deadlocked over the shift in health care plans. While there seemed to be agreement from the four-member commission on a 2% wage increase, they could not come to an agreement on the health care proposal, with 2 members voting to adopt the impasse panel recommendation and 2 members voting to leave the health care plan as it is. Citing a desire to get more information on the health care issue, the Commission tabled the decision until their January 15 meeting.
Projected Budget Surplus Already Being Debated
The Senate Fiscal Agency released figures on December 20 that project revenues for the General Fund and School Aid Fund in the 2012-13 fiscal year that are $455 million higher than were projected last May. The Senate Fiscal Agency also increased its revenue estimate for the current 2013-14 fiscal year by $388 million, and the 2014-15 fiscal year by $514 million.
Lawmakers are already debating how to spend the additional projected revenue. Some have argued that it be put into transportation funding, while Speaker of the House Bolger has indicated his desire to use it for tax relief. Governor Snyder’s budget recommendation will be released in just over a month, and there is a great deal of speculation on how he will choose to use the additional funds.
Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital Problems Brought to State Policymakers
MAGE and its lobbyists , as well as affected members, have been educating legislators in the Kalamazoo area regarding the impact of staffing problems at Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital. These serious problems result in health and safety concerns, not only for MAGE members and other employees at the facilities, but also for patients and other visitors at the facility. MAGE’s lobbyists will continue to work to help improve the current untenable situation.