PoliGraph: GOP lawmakers’ numbers right on state employee benefits

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Three Minnesota House Republicans say that tentative agreements reached between Gov. Mark Dayton and two state employees unions are flawed.

Among their gripes is that union employees are on track to continue getting a good deal on health insurance.

“Some 50,000 state employees do not pay a dime for the premium on their generous state health insurance policy,” wrote Reps. Mike Benson, Keith Downey and Steve Drazkowski in their August 17, 2012 opinion piece in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “State employees who opt for dependent coverage pay roughly $130 a month in total to fully cover their families.”

That statement is correct, but deserves some context.

The Evidence

Minnesota’s branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE), which collectively represent more than 27,000 of Minnesota’s state employees, have reached tentative agreements with the Dayton administration to renew their contract.

At this point, the contract would include a 2 percent across-the-board pay raise.

The contracts would also preserve the current system set up for state employee health insurance: Individuals on the state employee health plan have their entire premium covered by the state, and families pay roughly $130 monthly in premium costs, according to Minnesota Management and Budget.

About 48,000 state employees are eligible for the health care plan.

So, the GOP trio’s statement is basically correct.

However, it’s important to note that state employees do pay for their co-pays on prescription drugs and doctor’s visits, and their deductibles. In fact, the contracts agree to an increase in those out-of-pocket costs.

The Verdict

Benson, Downey and Drazkowski get their facts right in the opinion piece. But it’s important to put those facts in context.

This claim leans toward accurate.

SOURCES

The Star Tribune, Unions get a great deal from Gov. Dayton, by Reps. Mike Benson, Keith Downey and Steve Drazkowski, Aug. 17, 2012

Minnesota Public Radio, Parry and his campaign become the focus of committee hearing, by Tom Scheck, Aug. 9, 2012

AFSCME Council 5, Public Employee Pay and Benefits, accessed Aug. 24, 2012

Data, Minnesota Management and Budget, Aug. 20, 2012

Interview, Jennifer Munt, spokeswoman, AFSCME Council 5, Aug. 24, 2012

  • Tim Robinson

    Not sure how “Some 50,000 state employees do not pay a dime for the premium on their generous state health insurance policy” if there are only 48,000 employees eligible for the plan and surely many of those are paying the $130.00 for family coverage.

    So, the “claim leans toward accurate” if you forget about the numbers.

  • Jamie

    Aarrgghh!! Another terrible fact-checking story by Catherine Richert!!

    If you’re REALLY interested in providing “context,” you would mention that state employees:

    –Lost $65 million dollars during the Republican-created shut-down last year;

    –Pay up to $1900 per year for single health care coverage (about double for family coverage) with deductibles, co-pays, and prescriptions, and will pay an average of $958 per year with the new contract;

    –make 8 percent less in total compensation (wages + benefits) than their counterparts in the private sector, when matched by education and experience;

    –haven’t had a raise in three years, and during several years before that, even while their health-care costs were rising;

    –are each doing the work of more than one employee in many cases because of decades of budget cutbacks;

    –wages and benefits are only 3% of the state’s budget;

    Also, Republican extremist Mike Parry (one of those making noise about this), who caused the shutdown by not negotiating and comprimising (as Dayton did), took his salary during the state shutdown. On top of his salary of $31,141.00 for five months work, Parry took the maximum per diem of $12,040.00 which is a total of $43,181.00 for five months’ work. Calculated on an annual basis, Parry would make $103,634.40 before his health care benefits are added in.

    And what do Parry and his Republican state-employee haters pay for their health insurance? Aren’t they state employees?

    Another shallow, biased report by Richert.

  • Pops

    What a load of crap…Republican shut down…eating garbage under bridges….state employees are well paid and have excellent benefits and there is much waste in them there agencies….

  • Kevin Gilbertson

    Interesting to see the only people standing up for state employees with the padded benefit plans and the higher than private sector salaries are the ones scared to death that their public funded spicket is going to be turned way down.

    Gov. Mark Dayton is again putting his special interest unions welfare before the general public of the state.

    We expected nothing less and if we do not reelect a conservative majority in the Senate and House again in 2012 we deserve to be a socialist state where we reward those asking for handouts rather than those working to try to better themselves and their families.

    You wonder why businesses and individuals are leaving this state.

  • mtheaded12

    How about the $65 millon saved by state taxpeyes most of whom are middle and lower class?

    those taxpayers pay 3-4 times as much for their insurance aswell as their copays and deductables and are much more likely to lose their jobs in a downturn and haven’t been photographed leaning on their shovels.

  • Montesa_VR

    Wow, $130 a month, and you pay your own copays? And you’re griping about it? Try $700 a month for a high deductible plan that could cost an additional $6-10k out of pocket in a year. And that’s working for one of the big banks that you constantly demonize. You people need some kind of reality check. I realize it hurts to go backwards, but you have so very far to fall before you experience anything like parity with your private sector counterparts.

  • Raggled

    Jaime, you hit it right on the head! Don’t wory about people like “Pops” and “Kevin Gilbertson” There will always be people who don’t have the facts, but claim they know what is going on. As for “Montesa_VR” why is she defending an employer who treats her badly? Gosh, I think demons should be demonized. She just gives another reason why.

  • Sandy

    The premiums are low because the State picked providers who deliver high quality health care at low costs, they also shifted all employees to a single payor prescription system. And as far as leaning on shovels, State highway projects are completed by PRIVATE construction companies.