April 4, 2011
Minnesota Senate Votes to Shrink State Government
By Melissa Maynard, Staff Writer
WORKER CUTS: The Minnesota state Senate has sent a bill to the House that would dramatically shrink the size of state government, Minneapolis Public Radio reports . Under the proposal, projected state spending would drop by 59 percent. The state workforce would be cut by 15 percent over the next four years, and all remaining workers would have their wages frozen for two years. The bill also would shift state workers to a high-deductible health plan that would increase their out-of-pocket costs but save the state millions of dollars, notes the Minneapolis Star Tribune , which predicts that the proposal is "destined for a veto" from Democratic Governor Mark Dayton.
PENSION PROPOSALS: California Governor Jerry Brown unveiled a series of 12 pension proposals that would apply to all state and local pension systems in California, reports the Sacramento Bee . The list of "sweeping and sometimes vague" changes is less dramatic than those proposed last month by the Little Hoover Commission, an independent watchdog agency, but still quite significant. The proposals would impose a cap on benefits, prohibit public employers from skipping their annual pension contributions, curb the practice of pension "spiking" by defining compensation as regular pay and prohibit public agencies from making retroactive pension benefit increases, among other changes. Republicans in the legislature called for additional details and are demanding that pension changes be put before voters so that they will be more difficult for future legislatures to alter.
RÉSUMÉS, PLEASE: Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is asking about 100 senior managers in agencies across state government to re-apply for their jobs, citing the need to make government more efficient, reports The Denver Post . Under Colorado's structure, there are 96 high-level managers in the senior executive service who work under annual contracts for up to 25 percent higher pay than other managers but forego civil service protections. The Department of Agriculture, for example, has three managers whom the governor is asking to re-apply: the deputy director, the general manager of the state fair and the state veterinarian. "They are all good people," John Salazar, the department director, told the Post . "I talked to all of them, and they're fine. I plan to rehire them unless there's some superstar out there I don't know anything about."
WORKWEEK EXPERIMENT : Utah 's four-day workweek program for state workers has received high marks from employees and saved the state money since it was put into place in 2008 in an attempt to cut down on energy costs. But driven by complaints from consumers about lack of government services on Friday, the legislature passed a bill that would move the state back to a traditional Monday through Friday schedule, reports the Deseret News . Governor Gary Herbert vetoed the bill, saying that he would instead issue an executive order requiring state agencies to make all "critical, public-facing services" available on Fridays. Herbert said in a statement that he vetoed the bill because "the people of Utah have grown accustomed to extended Monday through Thursday hours" and the change "would be too disruptive, and simply bad policy."
BARGAINING ON BARGAINING: Nebraska 's legislature, which had been considering various proposals to end or severely limit collective bargaining rights for state employees, has turned to a compromise proposal in the hopes of avoiding the tumult that has engulfed Wisconsin in recent weeks, reports the Lincoln Journal Star . Current Nebraska law gives the power to settle labor disputes between public workers and their employers to a Commission on Industrial Relations. But cities have complained that those settlements are inconsistent and unpredictable. The compromise plan lays out criteria for the commission to use in settling disputes, sets standards for making wage comparisons among public and private employers, and requires the Commission to consider not just wages but also benefits when making comparisons, among other changes. "We explored virtually every aspect of the employer-employee relationship," state Senator Steve Lathrop, chairman of the Business and Labor Committee, told the Journal Star . "It's a comprehensive and meaningful response to the call for change."