Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Michigan State Employees' Same-Sex Partners to Get Health Benefits

The sweet sound of justice.

The Michigan Civil Service Commission voted 3-1 today to extend health care benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees, despite objections from Snyder administration officials who said the state can't afford the millions of dollars the change will cost.

Commissioners said it was mainly an issue of trust because the benefits extension had been negotiated in good faith between the Office of the State Employer and public sector unions.

Now we have the Snyder administration already going back on the promise to "run the state like a business". The majority of Fortune 500 companies now offer domestic partner benefits, with seven out of the top ten realizing that is what you have to do to attract and retain the best and the brightest to work for you. Also important to mention here is the fact that younger workers want to live in an atmosphere of tolerance and diversity; a message like this is essential to stopping the "brain drain" in Michigan.

But Jan Winters, the new director of the Office of the State Employer, said the benefits extension will cost more than what was originally negotiated back in 2004, partly because the agreements approved today include not only an additional adult, but the adult's dependents.

"We've very concerned, because something that costs millions of dollars is something the state of Michigan cannot afford right now," Winters told the commission, citing a projected $1.8 billion deficit for the next fiscal year. "If we spend the additional money, we're going to have to figure out where it's coming from."

Original estimates put the price tag at $6 million - not exactly your big-budget ticket item. Is the Snyder administration now saying that we can't afford to make this simple but obviously important investment in our "business" and our people?

And here we believed him when he said he was a good businessman.

It will be interesting to see if this provision is removed when they try and force all the union employees into one benefit package. Stay tuned, this isn't over yet...