It is time for our state's elected leaders to recognize that nothing gets done without workers: trained, competent, professional workers. The governor's proposed budget ignores the fact that state workers have done their share to address the state's fiscal problems.
Since 2008, the state's workforce has been reduced by 16,000 jobs. The state pension plan was changed in 2010 to create a new Tier 5 that will save state and local governments $35 billion over the next 30 years. In 2011, PEF agreed to a labor contract that freezes pay, requires workers to pay more for health insurance and cuts salaries through furloughs. This contract will save the state more than $230 million over the next four years.
The governor's proposal calls for another new pension tier that will do little, if anything, to affect the 2012-13 state budget. The Tier 6 proposal is nothing more than a false choice of accepting severely reduced pension benefits or joining an inefficient 401k style pension system. It would force public employees into a pension gamble that virtually guarantees a lower level of benefits. This proposal is similar to the misguided proposals for reforming Social Security proposed by former President George W. Bush.
Our members earned their pensions, which are reasonable. The average state pension is $19,000 per year. The current increases in pension costs don't result from increased pension benefits. They were caused by the collapse of the stock market.
Initiatives proposed in this budget will increase the privatization of key state services in agencies that serve youths and people with disabilities. The governor has also proposed "reforms" to the Civil Service system that will make it easier to appoint politically connected individuals by making who you know a more important factor in hiring than what you know.
While the overall size of the state workforce remains relatively unchanged in the budget, many state agencies remain severely short-staffed. This hinders the ability of agencies to perform their statutorily mandated mission which can only lead to wasteful and costly contracting out of state services as agencies struggle to meet their statutory mandates. For example the Department of Transportation has already lost 1,900 employees since 2000 including more than 900 engineers. They will lose another 91 employees this year including 62 engineers. During this time period DOT has increased its spending on consultant engineers even though they cost between 50 percent to 75 percent more than state employees. In the last year alone, DOT has increased its spending on consultant engineers by 22 percent.
We support a different approach to budgeting. Respect the professionalism of the state workforce and we can work together to get the job done.