Should state workers pay insurance?

Saturday, July 21, 2012
David Johnson

Local reps, candidates weigh in

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad announced on July 2 that he would begin paying 20 percent of his health insurance cost and passed an executive order allowing state employees to volunteer to do the same.

Council 61 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees filed a complaint against Branstad on July 10, arguing that state law disallows the move because health insurance plan changes are collectively bargained.

"I'm not necessarily opposed to employees paying for part of their premiums," said Steve Bomgaars, Democratic candidate for Iowa House District 2. "On the other hand, that should be negotiated between the governor and the state employees."

Bomgaar's Republican opponent, Megan Hess, believes state employees should be paying something for their insurance.

Jeff Smith

"The average individual is paying $68 per month; the average family is paying $347 per month," Hess said. "Eighty-eight percent of Iowa employees pay nothing. I think we need to start making the way we pay employees commensurate with how the private sector pays employees."

Hess went on to say that taxpayers fund 97 percent of every dollar spent on health care premiums and called that fact "outrageous."

She estimates if each full-time equivalent employee paid $100 per month, the state would save about $26 million.

Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, applauds Branstad's decision leading up to his first union negotiations since his election to a fifth term.

"His predecessor, Chet Culver, gave away the farm two years ago when he agreed to union demands without making a counter offer," Johnson said. "With that in mind, I voted for a mandatory plan for all state employees to pay a share of their insurance premiums. ... I will continue to support that decision next session. In my view, the governor stands a better chance of succeeding through collective bargaining than what has not been achieved legislatively."

Steve Bomgaars

Johnson noted he does not currently pay into his insurance plan, but would vote for a bill requiring him and other legislators to do so.

Rep. Jeff Smith, R-Okoboji, said, "I voted eight or nine times to increase our contributions we pay into health insurance. All of those were defeated."

Smith said varying plans are available for legislators, but his plan includes a payment, though he was unsure of the percentage he pays.

He believes those who have criticized Branstad for his move would criticize the governor, regardless of what he did.

"I find it hard to believe you can criticize someone for giving people the option to contribute to their health insurance," Smith said.

Megan Hess

Bomgaars stopped short of criticism, though he does wonder how Branstad arrived at his 20 percent figure.

"I really don't know where this 20 percent comes from," Bomgaars said. "It seems like he pulled that figure out of the air. He's trying to get state employees to pay that voluntarily. Secretaries, officers, etc., they have budgets they have to meet as well and their budgets are set.

"I don't understand why he did this at this time other than to make it a campaign issue," Bomgaars continued. "This really is an issue to be negotiated between the governor and state employees."

Johnson believes the move was to set the stage for negotiations this fall.

"I believe it's the right decision," he said. "It's a way to send a clear signal that this is going to be an item that comes up in negotiations."

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  • They already pay by taking reduced pay for years compared to what could be earned in the private sector. Just because the private sector has seen their wages and bennies stagnant and cut doesn't mean everyone else that negotiated fairly should be dragged down with them. People in the private sector choose to work and choose if they want to have collective bargaining.

    When the economy is roaring again, and it will, and the private sector is flush with pay and bennies as in the past, whould the public sector be given above and beyond what they negotiated just because of what's going on in the private sector?

    And when comparing private/public, they have to be similar jobs, not an administrator to an entry level position in an entirely different industry.

    -- Posted by helped_myself on Sat, Jul 21, 2012, at 10:28 AM
  • In good times, if union members aren't given above and beyond what was negotiated, then in bad times it's not fair to take away what was negotiated.

    Unions have always negotiated for less when times are bad because they want to help the economy they have to live with too. The WI teachers unions agreed to everything the governor asked for because of the recession. It was only when their right to negotiate was also taken away that the protests started.

    -- Posted by helped_myself on Sat, Jul 21, 2012, at 10:41 AM
  • Is it just me or does anyone find it odd that Gov. Branstad has been accepting free health insurance for the last 18 months? If he and other politicians are serious about this, they could voluntarily write a check to the Dept of Revenue for the 20% of the monthly benefit that they've received since they've been in office.

    Also, Branstad makes $130K a year salary + $50K a year from IPERS. In other words, he would pay the same amount ($224 a mo) as a janitor, secretary or 1st year prison guard/trooper (with families). Some employees have been paying $225 to $270 for health insurance for the last 20 years. If Branstad wanted to go after the $150K to $1.7M professors, coaches, doctors, lawyers, etc on the state payroll, I'd say go for it...

    I see these politicians as hypocrites and political opportunists to once again make state employees the 'whipping boy'. When Culver left office, there was a $900M's gone. Where did it go? Did Branstad hand out tax refunds to us? I would say that he spent quite a bit on lawyers defending his inept decisions, like he did when he was governor the last time around. (example: the Workforce Development fiasco). And any money saved by the employees paying 20% of their health insurance will likely get squandered on pork barrel projects...we taxpayers won't see one dime of it.

    I can see why so many conservative state employees vote Republican in the national elections but vote Democrat in the state elections.

    -- Posted by Dennis the Menace on Sat, Jul 21, 2012, at 4:33 PM
  • People forget the public sector are public servants. They work for us. We are paying for our own insurance so why wouldn't the public servants pay something towards their own insurance? The public servants should never have been allowed to unionize in the first place. Quite frankly they are the reason we have our selves in the mess we are in now. If the public servants don't like it, let them move on into the private sector.

    -- Posted by lili5044 on Sat, Jul 21, 2012, at 5:05 PM
  • Calling people 'servants' says a lot. These public workers are you neighbors, friends, family. They protect you and your property. They keep your community up and out of disrepair. They are not the enemy, no matter what you hear.

    Collective bargaining is not against the law. Let the parties involved negotiate in good faith. Driving off good people that want to work for you for fair compensation is a bad idea. When you end up with poorly paid, unskilled, incompetent people doing a job, you invite corruption and bribery into the process, ala 3rd world countries. When poorly paid people need more $ to meet a basic living standard and they feel they're being taken advantage of, some will resort to those methods.

    Driving down the standard of living for all but the wealthiest few is not the American way.

    -- Posted by helped_myself on Sat, Jul 21, 2012, at 6:56 PM
  • It appears that some of you fail to see who "pays" for the insurance and benefits of public employees. I'll give you a hint..... it starts with the word Tax and ends with the word Payers. I am every bit as competent as a "public servant", and provide every bit as much to the economy or society as a public sector worker, and yet I pay for my insurance premiums out of my own pocket (with my extravagant private sector pay! lOL!).

    Yes, these people are not the enemy, they are indeed friends, neighbors, and even family (and there are WAY too many of them working for The Government, which any Private Company that operated like the Government would have been belly up decades ago). How many Private Sector Companies do you know of that are 15 Trillion (yeah, with a T!) dollars in debt, and still operating as though it's Christmas Morning? The answer is Zero. They are long gone because they don't have my tax dollar to keep them afloat forever and ever, unlike OUR Government.

    There is a reason that States left and right are broke, the Nation is broke, and it's all for the same reasons. Spending money they don't have. Does a "public servant" work that much harder than a Private sector employee over a 30 year period? Of course not, most of the time it's quite the opposite. Yet somehow these people can retire with benefits similar to when they were working, at age 55? That is the definition of Insanity. It really is that simple. The Taxpayers (whose numbers get less and less every year BTW) get to "carry" this bevy of Government Workers for the last 30 years of their lives? Why? Because they gave me a Drivers License? Because they had an Office to accept my Property Taxes? You don't see anything wrong with this picture? LOL! Gee, I wonder why we're in debt up to our eyeballs. Couldn't be there are too many Public Employees! Couldn't be there are far to many of them retiring in their 50's! Nah! Couldn't be that!

    But you get enough people that don't understand the why's, and you get what we got............ a Nation 15 Trillion dollars in debt and not enough people contributing to pay it down, even if we had someone in Office smart enough to pay it down, which we don't.

    Bottom line, our Government could operate just as incompetently as it does on a daily basis already, with less than half of the employees that work for it now.

    I work with Government Entities on a daily basis, and my Private Sector Company tries in vein to save them money on a daily basis, yet no one seems to care, because that would mean work would be involved. It's ridiculous, but that is INDEED the system. If you don't think otherwise, you're either a Public Employee on the dole, or you're not paying attention to your surroundings, which clearly a good share of this country isn't. Hence entire States and Nations going belly up. Really simple people.

    -- Posted by Dick Butkus on Sat, Jul 21, 2012, at 11:16 PM
  • The fact that they have been receiving free medical blows my mind. And people wonder why our budget is so out of control. Doesn't seem that hard to understand.

    -- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Sun, Jul 22, 2012, at 10:17 AM
  • They don't get free medical. They take less pay or other benefit cuts in exchange for it. Compensation is a total amount in the form of pay, time off, benefits, etc. How it is split up is negotiated. I think people should be given that choice individually in the private sector, like a menu. Insurance for employees with families cost companies less than insurance for single people so the single person really isn't compensated equally. And some employees don't take ins. because they're covered elsewhere but they don't get anything in exchange for forgoing it. Some people may want more pay in exchange for less paid time off. Thats's just an idea I've had.

    Don't believe all of the gloom & doom you hear and read. Things can be better but they are far from the worse that recent history has seen. And with some cooperation btwn our elected officials they could resolve many issues much faster than is happening. Public worker benefits are not the reason for the global recession. And the private sector has not proven to be the answer to all problems, either by lack of ability or design.

    I know many people in the private sector that retired after 30 yrs at age 55. And many in the military do. Public workers should have the same chance if that's what is negotiated.

    Since "we're all in this together" we all need to "chip in" but why not do it in a reasoned civilized way with not just our selves in mind? Why must angry, finger pointing and knee jerk actions be the response? People are upset but attacking each other is not the answer except for the few that benefit from that. We need to be cognizant of the motives of those that promote hate.

    -- Posted by helped_myself on Sun, Jul 22, 2012, at 10:40 AM
  • Keep in mind that when that public sector person retires at 55 or you add a public sector position, you need several new private sector taxapayers to pay for it unless you want a bigger percentage taken from the private sector.

    Ask Greece how that all worked out. Next is Spain, they get to the end of their rope in 40 days or so.

    And if you research, many pubic sectors jobs average more than similar positions in the private sector.

    -- Posted by clayfarmer on Mon, Jul 23, 2012, at 5:45 AM
  • Historically, comparable private/public jobs always paid more for the private jobs. With the recession that may not be true. But that has nothing to do with the public pay scales. Also, on a whole, public employees have higher education than the general public.

    Evidentally, misery loves company, because there are people that want to drag everyone down with them (except the wealthiest). Striving for a lower standard of living will doom the country. The end all started with Reagan. Just look at historical data on wages since then in relation to lowere worker protections.

    The Europe crisis is more complex than you been led to believe.

    -- Posted by helped_myself on Mon, Jul 23, 2012, at 12:59 PM
  • Isn't it interesting to see who is "finger pointing" on here now? Blaming Ronald Reagan now. Geesh I guess you are tiring of blaming Bush for all the worlds problems. LOL! Nobody was "hating" with the comments on here that I read but, as American tax payers we are sick and tired of caring all these public sector employees on their insurance. Our employers help us pay for insurance but very few jobs I know of get "free" insurance. Towns, cities and States are going broke. We have turned into nanny states and the welfare system is going to break this country. Enuf is enuf!

    -- Posted by lili5044 on Tue, Jul 24, 2012, at 3:12 PM
  • No, actually the European crisis is not more complex than clayfarmer has been led to believe. He stated it in as simple terms as possible-they spent too much money, and now they can't borrow. They produced less than they consumed, now they're screwed. EXACTLY like the United States. The difference is we have a monopoly printing press.

    But this having public sector employees "pay" for their own health insurance is STOOOOPID. Stupid because THEY DON'T PRODUCE ANYTHING-only the PRIVATE SECTOR PRODUCES-so what would be happening is they'd be paying for health insurance from the exact same source as it comes from now-from the private sector that is taxed. Public sector employees do not actually "pay" taxes. They're just given money that they return to the same place it came from. It'd be like a McDonald's worker paying their "taxes" right back to McDonalds. It's a totally meaningless exercise. If they want to "pay" for anything, they should simply take a pay CUT. Saying taxpayers pay "this percent" of the premiums for public workers is ridiculous UNLESS those public workers are funding that other 3% from some private endeavor, such as book sales or money made in the private sector and that was in savings or invested. But that is most likely NOT the case, so taxpayers already pay it all since taxpayers pay the public employees' salaries.

    This "argument" is really pretty stupid and it's just politic playing with a meaningless end result. A real debate could be had with facts supporting dwindling substantially the "public sector" that feeds off the production of the market like a parasite, but having a "debate" over what public employees should pay for when in reality it all comes from taxpayers anyway is a waste of time and the politicians who make a point to bring it up should be ridiculed for their idiocy or calling voters stupid by continuing their game playing.

    -- Posted by jlees on Wed, Jul 25, 2012, at 2:41 PM
  • jlees ( like)

    -- Posted by Guy Fawkes on Wed, Jul 25, 2012, at 8:24 PM
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