State employees are celebrating a big pay raise and a boon for their health benefits. Some 24,000 state employees will get 10% to 15% pay raises over the next two years and a 3% cost-of-living increase. If that wasn’t enough, their health insurance premiums won’t go up, under an agreement between the state and Service Employees International Union Local 503.
The Democratic-controlled Legislature and state negotiators can’t turn down public employee unions. It’s somebody else’s money. Why shouldn’t they give it away lavishly?
Don’t get us wrong. State employees deserve to be fairly compensated, and they deserve reasonable health benefits. They deserve raises if they are doing great work. But that’s not really how things work in Oregon government.
SEIU is positively gloating about the deal, particularly in health care.
“We bargained to keep your healthcare costs flat, which is a huge win,” SEIU says. “Our premium share (the amount that comes out of your check each month to pay for the healthcare plan) is $367.80 less than what the average American pays. That’s an extra $4,400 in take home pay, every year. Considering that the cost of healthcare goes up by 7% every year, keeping that benefit in place is a major victory.”
Congratulations to those workers. But it comes with a price that will be paid by all Oregonians. They’ll be paying more in new taxes hatched by the 2019 Legislature, and many will be paying more for their own health insurance.
Another benefit won in the same contract is the right of an employee to turn 40 hours of vacation time into cash once per year as long as they still have 60 hours of vacation left. That’s like guaranteeing employees an extra week’s pay. Taxpayers pick up the tab.
The SEIU contract win is just one of many victories handed to public employee unions. Should state employees with a spouse or a partner on a state health care plan be able to use each other’s plans to get double health care coverage? The Legislature said yes. Another tab taxpayers will be picking up.
Don’t be any under any illusion that the Democratic-controlled state government is fighting for you. First and foremost, it’s fighting for the public employee unions who help keep them in office. And then it’s asking you to pay the bill.