Same old tune, but with a new excuse

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, February 22, 2007

"Crimp pay raises for state employees." This is nothing state employees haven't heard before. The only thing new is the excuse. For decades the excuse has been the escalating cost of providing health insurance.

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Wonder if anyone ever considered legislation that would severely limit malpractice lawsuits, as in Canada, as a way of limiting health insurance costs?

Ironies? 1) The state has millions of dollars to give to municipalities and school districts to fund their portion of the retirement system's shortfall, on top of the millions to supplement their budgets due to recent increases in energy cost. Even though the municipalities have the authority to raise their own revenues, but haven't elected to do so.

2) The state has millions of dollars for the oil companies in the form of tax breaks, on top of the billions of dollars in windfall profits they are making at the expense of the aforementioned municipalities (not to mention you and I), who in turn can raise the "prices at the pump" at a whim.

3) There are only five states with no sales tax and nine with no income tax, but only two have neither. I would hazard to guess New Hampshire doesn't have $40 billion in savings. Yet Alaska can, with a straight face, tell its employees that it can't afford a cost-of-living allowance that actually keeps up with the cost of living?

As usual, every time there is a budget shortfall, either real or perceived, no one but the employees are ask to "suck it up and take one for the team." But when there is a huge surplus, as there was last year, no one (except me) even suggested that the employees get a share this windfall. The same windfall that makes the state and the oil companies rich is hurting the municipalities and the individuals. As mentioned before, the municipalities have the ability to raise revenues as needed, but the employees can only attempt to cover their loses at best every three years, and if the terms reached during contract negotiation don't cover the actual increases in expenses, the employee can't go back to the well.

The last irony is that in a state that prides itself on being conservative, small government, libertarian, etc., we have expressed overwhelmingly "don't touch my dividend" as if we have done anything (except live here) to deserve it.

Michael Lavering


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