Michigan’s economic health second-best in nation Sen. Jansen says Bloomberg study shows reforms are working A national evaluation of the states released by Bloomberg ranked Michigan second-best in economic health. State Sen. Mark C. Jansen, R-Gaines Township, said Michigan’s high standing is the result of reforms taken to turn the state around. “The reforms we have made are working,” said Jansen, chairman of the Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee. “Bloomberg is one of the world’s top business and financial information services. Their report confirms that the work lawmakers have put in this year is beginning to pay off.” The Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States considered indicators such as personal income, tax revenue, employment and housing prices in its analysis, placing Michigan second only to North Dakota, a state in the midst of an oil boom. One of the year’s most significant pieces of legislation was Public Act 152, sponsored by Jansen and signed into law in September. The law will save half a billion dollars in taxpayer money for the costs of public employee benefits by limiting the amount a public employer can spend toward health care and increasing employees’ contribution toward the costs. The act also will address long-term budget instability and strengthen local governments and school districts. “This measure provides much-needed tax relief and helps us stretch our tax dollars,” Jansen said. “These funds can now be used to pay for more local services or be used to hire more police officers.” Jansen also cited the replacement of the ineffective Michigan Business Tax, the passing of a structurally sound state budget in record time and the slashing of bureaucratic red tape as other factors contributing to the high ranking by Bloomberg. “While we still have a long way to go, Senate Republicans are making good on our promises,” Jansen said. “We are delivering substantial reforms to reduce unnecessary regulations, improve the economic climate to create jobs and improve the quality of life for Michigan families. I am pleased the state economy is getting healthier and experts are recognizing it.” The Bloomberg study follows the Fitch Ratings agency upgrade to Michigan’s bond rating outlook last summer.
Senator Mark C. Jansen
The state Senate and House passed legislation Wednesday that will save half a billion dollars in taxpayer money for the costs of public employee benefits, said bill sponsor Sen. Mark C. Jansen, R-Gaines Township. Senate Bill 7 limits the amount a public employer can spend toward health care unless employees increase their contribution. “Ordinary taxpayers suffering under one of the worst economies for the past 10 years have been paying to maintain public employees’ benefits,” Jansen said. “This legislation provides some much-needed relief and helps us stretch our tax dollars.” The reform will save an estimated $500 million in benefit costs for school district, local government, and community college employees. 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. Jansen said the measure addresses long-term budget concerns and strengthens local governments and school districts. “This change is long overdue,” Jansen said. “In addition to providing schools and local governments with the necessary tools to address the rising cost of benefits and keep education dollars in the classroom, it addresses an inequity in the system.” Jansen pointed out that private-sector employees in the Midwest on average pay significantly more for their health care benefits than their public-sector counterparts: 21 percent for single coverage and 30 percent for family coverage for private employees, compared with only 10 percent and 15 percent respectively for those in the public sector. The money saved by local units of government and school districts will stay within that entity, Jansen said. “These funds could help pay for more local services or be used to hire more police officers,” he said. “Local school districts may be able to put more teachers in the classroom. This is the best benefit of all.” Senate Bill 7 now heads to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature.
Legislation designed to save the state money by encouraging eligible state employees to retire was introduced in the Michigan Senate recently, said sponsor Sen. Mark C. Jansen, R-Gaines Township. “This is a reform measure that we must consider during such challenging financial times,” said Jansen, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “The state is facing a $1.4 billion shortfall this year and we must control costs to help stretch taxpayer dollars.” Senate Bill 1226 would reform the Michigan State Employment Retirement System (SERS) to provide incentives to retire for eligible state employees with 30 or more years of service. To help ensure SERS remains financially sound, Jansen’s measure also would reinstate a three percent employee contribution. The Michigan Office of State Budget estimates that the three percent employee salary contribution for SERS participants would produce $23.6 million in gross savings during fiscal year 2010-2011 and a total of $289.6 million in gross savings from FY 2011 to FY 2020. Measures to encourage state employees who are members of the defined benefit plan to retire include: • Capping the earned service credit at 30 years. State employees continuing to serve beyond 30 years will be moved to a defined contribution plan for any additional years of service accrued after September 30 (excluding what is purchased by the employee). • Eliminating state-subsidized retiree vision and dental coverage as part of the health plan for state employees retiring after September 30. Employees retiring after that will be able to purchase coverage for a monthly fee. The administration has unveiled a retirement incentive plan to reduce the size of the public workforce by offering incentives to approximately 7,000 state employees and 39,000 public school employees eligible for retirement. Jansen’s bill is modeled after of the governor’s proposed changes to the retirement system. SB 1226 has been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration. • • •