Protect collective bargaining and health insurance
On May 19, the Senate added an amendment to its version of next year's state budget to give communities the ability to increase taxes on meals and hotel stays. It also closed the telecom loophole that had prevented municipalities from collecting property taxes on phone poles and wires. In addition, the amendment included a slightly different version of changes to municipal health insurance than had been proposed by the Special Commission on Municipal Relief, which released its recommendations on May 7.
The proposal adopted by the Senate uses the cost of insuring municipal employees through the Group Insurance Commission as a benchmark. (The GIC currently provides health insurance to state employees and a number of municipal employees who have negotiated to join the GIC.)
If a city or town's costs are higher than what it would cost to get health insurance through the GIC, the city or town would negotiate, through coalition bargaining, a health insurance plan either through the GIC or through another insurer that reached the benchmark. If the costs are below the benchmark, then no changes would be made to a community's health insurance.
The commission had recommended that all eligible retirees be enrolled in Medicare. However, this was not included in the Senate's amendment.
Collective Bargaining Threatened
The Senate proposal will be considered when a budget conference committee made up of House and Senate members meets. It is also possible that the House will bring up a separate bill in the next few weeks to make changes to municipal health insurance.
A proposal that is seriously being considered in the House is supported by many mayors and the Massachusetts Municipal Association. It gives city and town officials the power to determine the design of municipal employees' health insurance plans without collectively bargaining them. There would be no say for employees in what health insurance plans would look like.
The MTA is fighting to make sure that any change in municipal health insurance permits collective bargaining and gives a voice to retirees in decisions about their health insurance.
Send a message to your state representative today. Ask the representative to protect collective bargaining for health insurance and to make sure that retirees are part of the process.