State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
Setting the record straight on budget repair bill
A legislative column by Senator Mary Lazich
Last week, the
Opponents of the bill would like people to believe the budget repair bill leaves workers vulnerable to attacks by management. This is simply untrue. The bill provides employees protections from Draconian disciplinary measures.
Existing local government civil service employees continue to enjoy civil service protections. This bill requires a grievance procedure for all local government employees. A grievance procedure must include a procedure that addresses employee terminations, employee discipline and workplace safety. Classified employees can not be discharged, suspended or demoted without just cause.
The budget repair bill preserves bargaining for base wages.
In reality, the budget repair bill retains many of the same protections public employees have enjoyed for decades.
Local control is emphasized in the bill. Local governments have the ability to approve a resolution to increase base wages at a level exceeding the increase of the consumer price index. Taxpayers get the final say about those wage increases. A referendum must be approved by local taxpayers for the wage increases to take effect.
The budget repair bill empowers workers to take more control of their finances. Workers will have the right to determine whether hundreds or thousands of dollars in union dues are automatically deducted from their paychecks.
Employees also have the right to decide for themselves whether to be a part of a collective bargaining unit. Each unit will hold an annual vote to affirm their desire for a union. If a majority votes to maintain the collective bargaining unit, the collective bargaining unit remains in tact.
Executives and elected officials will contribute to their pensions at a higher rate than the general employee population. In addition, the multiplier factored into pension payments for elected officials is reduced. Reducing elected officials multiplier reduces pension benefits for elected officials.
Elected officials and government workers will pay 12 percent of health care premiums. The 12 percent is about half of the national average for health care contributions according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. A Tier 1 family insurance plan will cost an employee $208 per month; single coverage is $84 per month.
The health care and pension contributions are effective immediately for elected officials. Government employees that have a collective bargaining agreement in effect will not be affected until the end of the term of the existing contract. In addition, some school districts already have contracts that include health insurance contributions.
Governor Walker has said all along that fundamental change is needed to get the state’s financial house in order. The governor’s budget for 2011-13 reduces the state’s structural deficit by 90 percent. Much of the reductions are aid to local government. Provisions in the budget repair bill assist local governments in managing their budgets. Some municipalities and school districts will be in a better financial situation, by receiving more in employee contributions to pension and healthcare than aid reduction.
If the public steps back from the heated rhetoric of the last month and looks at facts of the budget repair bill, it is not an evil monstrosity. Government workers will still have worker protections and benefits that surpass many private sector worker protections and benefits. The bill avoids large-scale layoffs, keeps in place extensive employment protections and is fiscally prudent for state and local governments and workers.