Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010 517-999-3646

Senate Leader’s Proposals Aimed At Michigan’s Middle-Class Workers; Bishop Should Lead By Example At A Time When Citizens Are Suffering

LANSING – Citizens watchdog group Progress Michigan today called on Sen. Mike Bishop to include himself and all current legislators in his so-called “reform” plan that calls for pay cuts for middle-class workers, further reductions in Medicaid for Michigan’s struggling families and only targets health care benefits of future legislators, not current ones.

“Michigan citizens demand real reforms now, not a PR stunt that protects the lavish perks of Sen. Mike Bishop and his colleagues,” Progress Michigan Executive Director David Holtz said. “The Senate should lead by example and slash their benefits now, not at some later date. Michigan citizens are losing their jobs, homes and health care every day. The Senate should share in their pain and support real reforms that make cuts now, as some senators and representatives are fighting for.”

Bishop’s plan, unveiled today before an army of Lansing lobbyists in the ornate Elijah Myers Room at the State Capitol, calls for $1.2 billion in pay cuts for public employees but maintains gold-plated free lifetime health benefits for himself and all other current state lawmakers. A study by University of Michigan economist Charles Ballard said state workers have already saved the state $3.7 billion in reduced compensation and through other sacrifices.

Moreover, Bishop’s proposals contain no revenue reforms and instead rely on $2.6 billion in proposed cuts in the areas of health care, public safety, K-12 schools, Medicaid and a 5 percent pay cut for public employees that Bishop said must be approved by voters. Bishop’s proposal comes on top of a 21 percent reduction in state employees since 1978, and the steepest state government spending cuts among all 50 states over the past decade. Leading economists say that during times of severe economic recessions, government spending cuts can have a negative effect on the overall economy since most of the cuts usually target low- to middle- income people.

Today, state House freshmen Democrats and Senator Gretchen Whitmer announced a joint effort to end free, taxpayer-funded lifetime health care for state legislators, including themselves and other current lawmakers. The reform targets the overly generous and extravagant perk, and brings legislators’ health care in line with other workers throughout the state. Under current law, legislators get free, taxpayer-funded lifetime health care after only six years in office beginning at age 55.

“Senator Whitmer and first-term House Democrats should be commended for putting their own benefits on the line and recognizing that the public expects nothing less from lawmakers than shared sacrifice in the most challenging of times for Michigan’s families,” said Holtz. “Meanwhile, Senator Bishop targets nearly two-thirds of his $2.6 billion in proposed cuts at middle-class workers and struggling families while ignoring his own Cadillac lifetime health benefits. That’s not reform, that’s business as usual from the Senate majority.”

Last year, some lawmakers fought for other reforms that included cutting their pay by 10 percent, strengthening financial disclosure requirements for legislators and preventing lawmakers from becoming lobbyists for two years after leaving office. These reforms passed the House, but Bishop and the Senate have repeatedly blocked them.


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