There is currently a bill before the State Senate to cut the state work force by 15 percent in the next five years. I have a problem with this bill. Will the state have 15 percent fewer potholes? Do we really need 15 percent fewer workers? We have a mean lean state work force that is the same size as Florida’s. In the last few years AFSCME, the state worker’s union, has lost 20 percent of its membership. How did this happen?
I work for MSOCS and I know that the state has hired many three quarter time workers to replace full timers. A three quarter timer can work 60-80 hours per two week pay period depending on staffing needs. Their schedule can be used like an accordion, giving the employee more or less hours to cover staffing needs. They don’t get overtime unless they have worked over 40 hours or 7 days in a week. By replacing with three quarter time staff, the state has reduced the size of its work force even though they don’t lay people off.
The bill before the State Senate has buy-outs in it. This can be good to retire top seniority employees that cost the state more money. But it says that a person cannot go back to working for the state for five years. People who leave state service should be offered jobs as intermittents. They can save the state more money than what they would cost. An intermittent makes base pay and gets no benefits. By offering intermittent jobs the state could help people meets the needs of paying their health insurance before they are 65. They also reduce the use of overtime when an employee gets sick and they fill in with an intermittent. I have worked for the state over 29 years and I make over $20 per hour. If I get overtime, it’s $30 per hour. Think about it.
These are some methods of saving money. They are not cute, but they are better than taking away the right to bargain, laying people off, cutting benefits, or taking away people’s pensions, and their deferred compensation. I am taking the state buyout this year, and I am able to retire with dignity because of these programs. I have paid in more than half of the money myself, and some of the remainder is taken care of by the interest. Minnesota taxpayers are only paying 18 percent. I also got two years of the price of my health insurance paid by leaving before June 30.
Instead of demonizing state workers, or people on welfare, the legislature should look at the Governor’s Budget and find ways to make everybody share the pain, not just a section of the population. If people making $35,000-$45,000 are taxed at 12.8 percent, than the rest of us who make more should be taxed at least that rate too. It’s only fair.