“Reform before revenue”, huh?

Can this be true? The new Senate transport bill (passed 39-1) doesn't include moving the MBTA health care benefits into the GIC — or even making them comparable?

One proposed reform, moving MBTA employees on to the Group Insurance Commission when contracts expire, could save at least $25 million a year, Taxpayers Foundation President Michael Widmer said. While that reform was included in the bill reported out by the Senate Transportation Committee, it disappeared by the time the final bill made it to the Senate floor, replaced by a process by which MBTA employees could be moved to the GIC if health costs exceeded the GIC costs by an as-yet-undetermined amount.

You have got to be kidding me. Madame President, say it ain't so.

Does the Senate fear the Carmen's Union that much? Senators – you should fear the rest of us.

(via Jay.)

PS: Wouldn't it be ironic if the Senate used the “reform before revenue” mantra and the Jim Aloisi circus in order to … walk back the reforms proposed by both the governor and its own Transportation Committee?

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9 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Charley, I don't know the $quot;reelection$quot; rate in the MA Senate and House...

    but I don't think anyone up there fears anything, including us. I posted here a few weeks ago saying the reforms would be nothing but window dressing and politicians and pundits would respond that "it would take time" or "we have to acknowledge small successes"... and life would go on. Aloisi is a great example of someone who should never have been hired, has been a failure since being hired and continues to bulldoze anything in his way... and yet nothing is happening to him. He should be dropped.

    Reform will never happen here, there is no opposition and the unions (Carmen's, MTA's and State worker's) are too strong.

  2. Yes and no

    Yes, in that the MBTA Carmen's Union has a hold on many legislators from both sides of the aisle.

    But this change also has more with trying to untangle the complicated laws governing the Carmen's Union (because it used to be a private-sector union before the formation of the MBTA). Could Senate Ways and Means have spent the time and worked out the tangle? Yes. But knowing the fight they would have had on their hands anyway, they decided to punt.

    (FYI, not defending it, just giving some insight)  

    • A punt is still a punt

      It doesn't matter why, the point is that the public views this as another example where "the Democrats" punted.

      I think we need more leadership from the Governor's office than we've had. One way or another, I think it's crucial that Governor Patrick get in front of, rather than behind, the public on the corruption issue.

      Nothing else is going to happen if not.

  3. Contract law

    Regardless of the number that those omniscient bean-counters at the MBTA pull out of...thin air...does this rupture in contract law worry you at all?  I mean, the fact that the State House could unilaterally break labor contracts may not be an issue for those not in the public sector...until it's used as precedent.

    sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
    • Question:

      Would this break current contracts or simply change the structure for future contracts?  I tend to agree with your thinking sab... you can't sign on the dotted line and then change your mind later.  But, you certainly don't have to sign the same contract for future employees, that's for sure.

      It might take a generation to work out the legacy of bad decision (or only 23 years in the case of the MBTA), but that doesn't mean it isn't worth doing...

      • That I'm fine with

        If the MBTA wants to get tough and make a stand on GIC, then let the process play out.  But Deval and his cheerleaders are pretty clear that they'd like to force every employee that they control into the GIC no matter what anyone else thinks.  DiMasi supported using the GIC -- and these days I don't have a problem with that, the costs are reasonable -- but I'm not sure he embraced that route.

        sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
      • Answer...

        It requires the MBTA to offer a health insurance plan "on par" with what the GIC offers. If the MBTA can't prove that what theyre doing is more cost-effective, then the union has to join the GIC when its contract expires.  

        Its a similar situation with the pension changes. It sets 25/55 as a negotiating floor for the next contract. What the MBTA gives up to get there will be the interesting part.

        The savings aren't as dramatic as if they just yanked the rug out 100%, but there will be some.

        This is a great example of legislators listening to the group who will actually show up at the fundraisers and polls. There's a 50% chance Joe Voter will show up to vote in 2010, but a 100% chance Joe MBTA Union Member will be at the polls, along with his entire family.

        Again, not defending, just laying the situation out.


        • Thanks

          An informative and clear answer...appreciated.

          sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
        • when its contract expires

          This is the really important part.  Nobody is trying to change an existing contract, and all negotiated benefits will remain unchanged over the lifetime negotiated.

          Is this correct?

          If yes, I say go fer it!  Let's bring the MBTA employee salary and benefits in line with other state employees.

          If no, I say... negatory.  A contract is a contract.

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