State Budget Deal Struck

Healthcare Issues Remain Unresolved

JULY 7, 2017: After more than a month of negotiations, House and Senate budget conferees have struck a deal on the Fiscal 2018 State Budget. Both branches of the legislature are expected to approve the Conference Report today.

Contained within the budget is a full 3% COLA on a $13,000 base for state and teacher retirees, as well as full funding for the Commonwealth’s pension and retiree health insurance obligations. The continued commitment to both issues is significant at a time when many states have eyed cuts to such programs as a means to reduce government spending and balance budgets.

However, Association officials are deeply disappointed that language passed within the Senate’s version of the budget, that would give retirees and active employees a greater voice on the state Group Insurance Commission, was not included in the budget. The proposal would grant our Association, the Mass. Organization of State Engineers and Scientists (MOSES), and SEIU Local 509 direct representation on the GIC.

In addition, the proposal also prohibited the GIC from increasing premium or out-of-pocket costs without first holding a public hearing.

“I won’t pretend not to be disappointed that these issues remain unresolved. Healthcare continues to be an increasingly expensive and complicated problem for our members that seems to worsen each year. Granting our members a direct voice in developing healthcare policy, while requiring a transparent process be followed is not too much to ask,” said Association President Frank Valeri. “That said, it does appear that the legislature would rather address these issues through a stand-alone bill, focused exclusively on retiree healthcare. Our hope is that a proposal begins to develop this fall, to be acted upon during the current legislative session.”

Following today’s legislative approval, the budget will be reviewed by Governor Charlie Baker. By law the governor has 10 days in which to review the document prior to taking action. The legislature is expected to remain in session through the end of July, before breaking from formal sessions in August.