Proposal Introduced for Public Employees to Pay for Health Care

By: A.J. Hilton Email
By: A.J. Hilton Email

A plan impacting state workers including everyone from current and former lawmakers to prison guards could save the state millions of dollars. State Representative Lorence Wenke of Kalamazoo wants to require public employees-- both current and past to foot the bill, and pay 25 percent of their health care premiums.

"We're the leadership," said Rep. Wenke. " We should set the example. It would make a dramatic difference in balancing the budget in the state of Michigan."

Rep. Wenke says he believes his plan could save the state upwards of $400 million a year. But the State Employees Union believes that Rep. Wenke is going about it the wrong way.

"This would put a tremendous burden on people who often are forced now to live from paycheck to paycheck," said Treasurer Alan Kilar of the State Employees UAW.

Kilar believes lawmakers should reform health care instead of forcing public employees to pay more.

"I think if we want to attract quality employees to state service and to the state of Michigan, we don't do that by cutting benefits," said Kilar.

The State Employees UAW negotiates benefits with the Office of State Employees, which are then approved by the Civil Service Commissioner.

Rep. Wenke says his goal isn't to get legislation passed, but rather-- to gain the right attention.

"The governor is the person who takes the lead in negotiations with state employees. We need to set the example," said Rep. Wenke.

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  • by Terry Location: Lansing on Jun 23, 2007 at 03:02 AM
    It might be noted that Rep Wenke made his money in the flower business noted for not hiring seasonal part time employee's, paying piece work and of course no benefits all of which has made him rather wealthy. He appears to not like state employee's for some reason and he does not appear interested in having the benefits provided by most hard working state employee's. Benefits are a target, but not the purchasing requirements that make employee's pay 3 times more for equipments and supplies as a private citizen could pay at a local store off the shelf despite the state's high volume purchase power. There are far more waste, include state employee's in the budget talks and you will discover tons of ways to save the state money.
  • by Sandy Location: kalamazoo on Jun 22, 2007 at 07:33 PM
    Maybe the state employees along with their family and friends should not spend their hard earned money at Wenke's greenhouse on Sprinkle Rd. Then maybe he will understand what it is like to live with less income. Also he seems to forget we are taxpayers also and that if we have less to spend Michigan gets less revenue. State employees deal with things that no one else will!!!
  • by Lisa Location: Lansing on Jun 21, 2007 at 12:24 PM
    Apparently he just wants to fan the fire after the LSJ great idea! Rep. Wenke needs to get his head out of you know where. If his goal is not to get legislation passed but gain the right attention-is he planning on running for governor? What is the right attention?
  • by Lynelle Shaker Location: Genesee County/Flint on Jun 21, 2007 at 11:30 AM
    Maybe Rep. Wenke is paying more for his state funded health insurance and we just don't know it? Maybe Rep. Wenke is reducing his wage as his party is trying to do to mine and we just don't know it. BUT I highly doubt it. Going after state workers wages/benefits is not going to balance the budget. How about a part time legislature? I hear you don't work the same amount of days a year I do right now, but get paid for a full year. Talk about a gravy job! Can I apply?
  • by G Location: Lansing on Jun 21, 2007 at 11:06 AM
    Why don't we go to a part-time unpaid legislature? That should help ALOT! Also- if they must be paid- why not have their own constituents vote on what their salary should be and whether or not they get a raise and/or benefits? Then we might have some legislators that actually work hard for the people who put them in office! And whomever mentioned raising taxes to cover budget issues is an idiot. Our problem has been all along that we spend way more than we take in. Stop spending so much. The more taxes we have (one of the largest tax rates in the country, one of the highest unemployment rates...I think we rank right up there with Alaska...) the less likely we are going to have successful businesses to provide jobs for people and the less people will have income for them to even tax...It is a vicious cycle and the current Gov and legislature doesn't even get the connection....DUH! Lastly, if you are unhappy with your benefits and salary- find a private job. I left the State for the same reasons you guys are griping about. If you can earn more and get better benefits in "the real world" then DO IT!
  • by Thea Location: DHS on Jun 21, 2007 at 07:39 AM
    I think that us being State employees we should not have to flip the bill for the states budget, in case you haven't noticed we have been hit everytime there is a "budget problem" and then we are suppose to grin and bear it as the public that we serve every day, seems to get better treatment than those of us that work everyday making sure that they don't go "without" and taking their rude comments and then the employer that we have wants to have us take more cuts on our side. If we are going to start making cuts lets start at the top and take away all of the big raises that were given out to people that just make comments about taking away from us that are in the offices and doing the job first hand. Take a closer look at those of us that are in the offices and how short handed we are that we are doing the job of 2 to 3 employees and expected to get out the same amount of work. Stand in our shoes for a few weeks and then tells us, oh and by the way we are going to make more cuts on all of you because we can't find any other way to due it without affecting our employees.
  • by Worker Location: Lansing on Jun 21, 2007 at 07:08 AM
    Well the LSJ has gone and figured this all out for us. Just go to their all but "just" website that provides the names and salaries of all state employees. Not only will this show the Private sector just how little salary there is to pay out more of the health care premiums from, but it will also show that it is not the salaries of the employees causing this huge budget crisis. The governor's office and her husband's office expenses most likely will not be included on that website, that is why the prior statement is true. Do not be mislead private sector, state employees do not receive that full salary stated on said website, since the governor is consistently forcing unpaid leave days, "banked leave time" (unpaid hours), unpaid overtime (that is now mandatory), and other such ways to balance her budget. We also have to pay up to 100 dollars a month for parking, and we do not even get free coffee in our offices. But whatever is Fair...
  • by Sherry Location: Lansing on Jun 21, 2007 at 07:08 AM
    When is the legislature going to take a pay cut? They graciously gave themselves a 36% percent raise and have given nothing back to the STATE of MICHIGAN people.
  • by A State Worker Location: Lansing on Jun 21, 2007 at 05:47 AM
    I'm starting to think our representatives dont live in the real world. As a current State employee with almost 20 years of public service I am disappointed and dismayed that we are of so little value to our politicians. The constant bombardment by our State legislature does nothing but kill the morale of public servants. Obviously Mr. Wenke gives very little value to government services. I think perhaps the people of Kalamazoo should consider if this is the kind of person they want to represent them in government. Do they value having clean air, clean water, good roads, etc? Frankly, if benefits get cut by the percentage Mr. Wenke is proposing, there is really no point for professionals, such as engineers and scientists, in continuing State service. I for one will be looking for a new job - outside of the State of Michigan. Hopefully that will be enough of my blood for Rep Wenke.
  • by Dave Location: Lansing on Jun 21, 2007 at 03:33 AM
    How about current and former lawmakers giving back that last raise and taking the lead by going on some unpaid furlough days themselves? Don't ask the people you lead to make sacrifices you are not willing to make.
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