Spending cap on health benefits is helpful

September 6, 2011
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The Legislature recently approved reforms that will provide schools and local governments with the necessary tools to address the rising cost of benefits and keep education dollars in the classroom. Senate Bill 7, which I sponsored, limits the amount a public employer can spend toward health care unless employees increase their contribution.

The measure caps public employer contributions to employee health care costs at a fixed dollar amount, or it divides the costs so employees contribute 20 percent of the costs. The legislation will save an estimated $500 million in benefit costs for school district, local government and community college employees.

This change is long overdue. Private-sector employees in the Midwest are responsible for an average of 21 percent of their health care benefits for single coverage and 30 percent for family coverage, while public employees’ share in the Midwest is on average only 10 percent of the cost for single coverage and 15 percent for families.

Taxpayers burdened with high unemployment, lower personal income and falling home prices shouldn’t be paying more to maintain public employees’ benefits. This legislation will help us stretch our tax dollars.

It is also important to note that the money saved by local units of government stays within that government entity. This could be used to hire more police officers or pay for more local services. The money saved by local school districts remains in that district and could be used to put more teachers in the classroom. This is the best benefit of all.

Mark C. Jansen
State Senator, 28th District

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