All Options On The Table
North Dakota lawmakers, especially Republican leadership owe it to their constituents to address the budget and economic crisis in North Dakota with full faith. Times are not great, especially given recent news, Titan Machinery is closing several of their stores in North Dakota. In addition to several retail stores closing their doors in Fargo. Also slumped oil prices are taking their toll, and there is the possibility of OPEC production cuts reversing at the drop of a hat. Doug Burgum has a proposal to make public employees pay 5% of their health insurance. This would save millions, but is not popular in Bismarck.
People are losing their jobs. This is happening, and those in Bismarck need to take this seriously. Unfortunately, the legislature is not being serious. When big time players such as Titan Machinery are closing doors, you know that the next revenue forecast due in March is going to be bad. North Dakota Republican Leadership need to act now and get a head start on shrinking government. Before we know it the bad economic data will be in and we are at the end of the session, with even more problems.
The proposal to make all public employees pay 5% of their health insurance premiums is a very good idea. I think public employees should pay 100% of their plans. This idea came from Governor Burgum’s budget recommendations released in January. The recommendations which came out as a news release cited this move would save taxpayers $11 million. Burgum has said “Given the challenge we’re having on health care costs … we have to have every single employee engaged in understanding the full impact of health care costs and not have it be a free good.” I completely agree with Burgums analysis of the situation, health insurance, and health care are not a human right. Whether or not Burgum stays faithful to this is a different story.
North Dakota’s largest public union, ND United, is opposing the proposal. ND United President, Nick Archuleta, has said this move would hinder public retainment and recruitment. He also said, “The state of North Dakota, the people who live here, have come to expect great public service…I’m afraid that if all we’re going to do is cut, cut, cut, we’re not going to be able to maintain that level that the people of North Dakota have come to expect.”
Opposing this proposal on the grounds of public attractability isn’t strong enough to not go through with this proposal. According to Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford, they estimate 5% to equal out to $40-60 per month. Many private plans in North Dakota will see insurance premiums increase 7% in 2017, due to Obamacare. Is it fair that public employees do not have to experience the same increases? The private sector is paying double; for their health insurance and public employees health insurance too. That isn’t right.
Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, said if employees aren’t going to get a raise, it didn’t make sense to require them to cover part of their premium. Boo-hoo. Obamacare doesn’t make sense, but thousands of people didn’t see pay raises and saw their premiums jump. It is irresponsible to suggest that public employees should be shielded from such realities. Especially when the people paying for their compensation have to face the consequences of government intervention at their expense. The poor, the sick and uninsured should not be paying for public employees health insurance.