We are so fortunate to have hard working Iowans working on our behalf. These are the people who teach our youth, work in prisons, work at Human Services, and snow plows our highways to name a few. Many put their lives on the line and for this I am very thankful.
Last week after a months’-long negotiation, an arbiter decided on a two-year contract for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). AFSCME is Iowa’s largest union, representing 20,000 employees under this contract. Government workers will continue to receive free healthcare while the majority of hard-working Iowans pay for their medical coverage.
The arbiter’s decision represents a $94 million cost savings to the state of Iowa, which has been working to find ways to save money and spend wisely. This significant saving is a step in the right direction from the previous contract negotiated. While this savings is important, the arbiter’s decision still allows state employees a free benefit at the expense of the Iowa taxpayer who must pay for their own healthcare coverage. While I respect the decision of the arbiter we need to have a conversation about the health benefits that is provided to state employees which would be in line with the private sector.
Iowa is one of only six states in the country where the majority of state employees pay nothing toward their health insurance. In contrast, families on the hawk-I plan designed to provide insurance for families making just above the federal poverty level, pay $40 a month for their insurance. Iowa state employees need to lead by example and pay a portion of their health care costs. It is the right thing to do when the state and country continue to debate health insurance at a time when health care costs continue to rise.
To that end, I support SF 137, a bill requiring members of the General Assembly to pay 20% of their health care premiums. I feel this is an appropriate place to start, by setting the example moving forward. My hope is the legislature will take up the measure very soon.