Wednesday, March 11, 2015
The 2015 Legislative Session for the SDSEO has been one of both calm and furor. While we were not faced with a barrage of negative original bills, and for the first time in what feels like forever our healthcare wasn't going to cost us even more, we caught more than our fair share in proposed amendments to the general bill, HB 1208. The amendments are here. Numbers 2, 3, and 4 are bitter pills.
Yes, combined, they add up to $15.055 million. But they don't go together like that, as the second and fourth each have components that are the same: a 50% reduction in movement toward market value.
And while the "savings" for the general fund is a slim $2.2 million for the second and under $2 million each for the third and fourth, that leaves the remainder of federal and other funds forever being lost to the employees and the state's economy. That lost sum is $3.57 million for the second of the amendments, $2.879 million for the third, and $2.653 million for the fourth. The state's economy will not receive a single cent of those millions. In fact, due to the loss of federal funds, we can't even recoup the federal tax dollars we paid into the system. Does that make any sense?
Categories: Appropriations Committee, Legislative
Wednesday, January 29, 2014The SDSEO has been at every hearing of the Joint Committee on Appropriations this session. There were two hearings today, one from 8 a.m. to noon and one later in the day. The first was Day 2 of the Department of Social Services briefings, and the second was a second round for the Bureau of Human Resources. BHR basically went through the present state health plan today, with assistance from contractors like Dakotacare. The 2015 proposed health plan was mostly not a topic. The materials presented are here, under "1/29 BHR Follow-up Presentation." This was the fourth day, overall, for BHR hearings with JCA.
Tomorrow, you can find the SDSEO at the morning JCA hearing, which is Day 3 for Social Services. The agenda is here. You can listen in here. And we'll also be at the 3 p.m. Senate Retirement Laws hearing, where the four South Dakota Retirement System bills will be heard. The agenda is here. The SDSEO will testify in support of each of those bills, all of which are supported by the SDRS Board of Trustees, including the support of the state employee and BOR employees on the board. You can listen to the hearing here.
Categories: Appropriations Committee, Bureau of Human Resources, Legislative, South Dakota Retirement System
Monday, January 20, 2014The first week of the 2014 South Dakota Legislative Session, the 89th session in South Dakota history, started with the South Dakota Joint Committee on Appropriations taking state government employee proposals. The committee heard from the Bureau of Finance and Management's commissioner Jason Dilges and Bureau of Human Resources commissioner Laurie Gill. The Thursday BFM testimony was pretty much laid out in Gov. Daugaard's state budget address, and showed raises in compensation. The slides used are here. Compensation is on page 11. Below is a chart based on info from page 11:
Recommended Increases General Federal Federal Other
3% Across the Board and
Market Increases $9,772,471 $5,442,344 $11,678,982
3% Adjustment Toward Job Worth (PACE) $2,797,040 $1,346,040 $1,828,3780
4.5% Pay for Performance (Career Bands) $585,673 $544,366 $1,587,957
Targeted Compensation Adjustments $454,727 $224,340 $304,730
Employee Health Insurance Increase $6,756,462 $3,902,062 $7,286,652
Total Cost of Recommendation $20,366,373 $11,459,152 $22,686,699
Remaining FY2014 Compensation Pool $(32,711) $(190,766) $(464,725)
Total Increase for Compensation Plan $20,333,662 $11,268,386 $22,221,974
So we see that the proposed salary policy leads to a raise in compensation across the spectrum. But the Friday BHR-centered hearing showed that raises in compensation may have been proposed, but so have increases in deductible and out-of-pocket costs for the employee and dependents. That proposal would see families paying prohibitively more for health care. The slides used are here
Under the BHR proposal, deductibles would rise from a low of $500 to $750, and from $1,000 to $1,250 (no change on $1,800 HSA). And out-of-pocket costs would rise from $2,500 to $3,250, from $3,500 to $4,250, and from $3,600 to $4,350. In addition, higher prescription drug costs, the halving of the retirement subsidy, and the elimination of the COBRA subsidy were offered. Altogether, it totals $5.8 million, and that's all born by the employees, straight out of their pockets. That's a problem.
The worst of it is, though, that these costs would disproportionately affect the lowest paid workers. I think of the families that really comprise the backbone of South Dakota, those helmed by heads of household earning less than $40,000 per year. I'd say most of those families have children, and you know how it is to be a parent: children regularly go to the doctor. Then I imagine having to pay an extra $250 per person for the deductible (so, at least an extra $750 to $1,000 per family), and $750 per person for the out-of-pocket (about $2,250 to $3,000 per family). That all adds up to an extra $3,000 to $4,000 per family per year. As far as family finances are concerned, that's a catastrophic health plan. And for families in the $20,000 to $60,000 range, it's just catastrophic.
The SDSEO will be working hard to see that legislative amendments or other remedies are made. We need your help. One thing you can do is join the SDSEO, as we need your voice with us in the Capitol. Another thing you can do is talk about the SDSEO, and how we're working for you: spread the word about the SDSEO. Yet another thing you can do is talk to your district legislators; you can find them here. An email, phone call, visit, or letter about your concerns goes for more than a session's worth of lobbying by the SDSEO.
Categories: Appropriations Committee, Bureau of Finance and Management, Bureau of Human Resources, Legislative, Movement to Job Worth, Retirees
Wednesday, May 22, 2013One of the items discussed during the 2013 House of Delegates was the need to expand the SDSEO's reach and presence. The decision was made during HOD to open an office in Sioux Falls during the interim session, with an evaluation of the results of the move to be made during the 2014 HOD. I will continue to work in Pierre for South Dakota Retirement System meetings, Board of Finance meetings, interim legislative hearings, and the entire legislative session.
The driving forces for opening an office in Sioux Falls are the need to push recruiting and chapter activity; working from Sioux Falls allows for me to make working with the SDSEO easier, as we have chapters in Brookings, Mitchell, Vermillion, Yankton, Springfield, Watertown, Sioux Falls, and Madison that have languished without access to the executive director. The hope is that more involvement with the executive director will lead to more recruiting and chapter activity, which are the lifeblood of the SDSEO. The fact of the matter is that the SDSEO needs to start adding members and getting more active, or it will fold.
A couple more benefits of working from Sioux Falls in the interim: 1) The SDSEO will still have its main office in Pierre, and the combined cost of the Pierre and Sioux Falls offices will actually be less than the cost of the current Pierre office. 2) Greater access to legislators. There are 12 districts west of Pierre, with state employee concentrations in just 5 of those. There are 23 districts east of Pierre, with state employee concentrations in 18 of them. It's much easier to arrange meetings with legislators when distance and time are not so large. 3) As with reason #2, more media outreach possible from Sioux Falls. 4) Reduced travel costs. The cost of one round-trip to almost anywhere East River is slightly less than the cost of one month's office rent in Sioux Falls.
Categories: Executive Board, House of Delegates, Legislative, Member, SDSEO Chapter, SDSEO Office
Wednesday, May 22, 2013The SDSEO held its first ever forum for an entire district's current legislators last night. It was for District 24, which is plum packed with state government employees. Senator Jeff Monroe and Reps. Mary Duvall and Tim Rounds were in attendance and eager to hear from state employees. Did they have people to interact with? There were a few state government employees who showed up to interact with the folks who make the laws that govern the employment of state employees, but not many. Considering it was a rainy night with lots of events canceled, and considering we blitzed the radio airwaves and the daily newspaper with advertising, and considering the event was specifically for state employees and SDSEO members, the turnout was disappointing. However, those who attended had great ideas, and those are the ideas we'll move forward with. We'll have another forum in Pierre, and we hope for better attendance. Here's the Pierre Capital Journal story on the event: Legislators Discuss Issues With State Employees.
Categories: Legislative, Media, Meetings, Member, SDSEO Chapter, SDSEO Office
Monday, March 25, 2013Today is Veto Day and is the last day of the 2013 Legislative Session. With no vetoed bills affecting state government employees, it's safe to say the 2013 Legislative Session was successful for state government employees and for the SDSEO. We gained $47 million in funding for the next fiscal year, putting the total expenditure for salary and benefits at nearly $950 million. Complete info on the General Appropriations Act for FY 2014 is here.
Salary increases will come July 1 in the form of a 3% across-the-board increase, movement to job worth from 0% to 3.5%, career banding from 0% to 3.5% (engineers, environmental scientists, IT software engineering, and IT technical engineering) and from 0% to 4% (accountants/auditors, nursing). Longevity pay is essentially continually funded, so is not addressed specifically.
Categories: Benefits, Legislative, Salary
Monday, March 25, 2013The state health plan will see changes in FY 2014. FY 2014 begins July 1, 2013. The South Dakota Bureau of Human Resources proposed to the 2013 Legislature the following changes, all of which were accepted and approved as part of the budgeting process:
- 5% dependent premium increase for all plans.
- The FY 2013 rates for active employees in 2013 are here. Apply 5% to the applicable rate with a dependent to find the FY 2014 rate, which begins on July 1. Example: Employee and One Child - FY 2013 rate is $41.35 semimonthly; FY 2014 is $43.42 semimonthly; that's a 5% increase of $2.07 semimonthly.
- 12% retiree premium increase.
- The FY 2013 rates for retirees are here. Apply 12% to the applicable rate to find the FY 2014 rate.
- 5% COBRA increase.
- Co-pays removed on $500 and $1,000 deductible plans, except the ER co-pay, which remains.
The employee cost of these changes is $5.6 million; that's the amount of increase that users of the state health plan will pay over their cost in FY 2013. The $5.6 million comes from an additional $1.1 million in premiums, and $4.5 million in member cost sharing.
The state's costs are increasing as well. FY 2014 will see the state invest an additional $12.3 million in the health plan. The Legislature, in Appropriations, decided against a proposed wellness plan that would have cost an additional $8.1 million. That wellness plan would have alleviated the cost born by employees with the premium and cost-sharing changes because the bulk of the funds would have gone to employees who successfully completed quarterly wellness initiatives. There will be exploration and discussion of wellness initiatives over the summer.
Categories: Appropriations Committee, Benefits, Bureau of Human Resources, Health, Legislative, Lifetime Members, Member
Wednesday, September 19, 2012The SDSEO executive board met this past weekend. As executive director, I thought the meeting went well. Past SDSEO president Fred Nelson was a guest speaker, and he made an excellent presentation about how executive boards and executive directors can serve their organization and their membership. While Nelson's presentation was "on the mark" and will no doubt positively affect the SDSEO and all it does for quite some time, perhaps the best part of him being there was simply him being there.
While the board members and myself were able to take from him his knowledge, in interacting with him, we were able to give him deeper insight into ourselves and the organization as it stands today, insight which he will then take to others. Note how I say "will then take" and not "can" or "might." In science, we may have "every action is met with an opposite but equal reaction," but in communication, you can leave out the "opposite"; in communication, you typically get what you give, so "every action is met with an equal reaction." Just as I'm talking up Nelson and his presentation, I'm certain he's doing the same for the executive board and me. That's why it's important for the SDSEO and all of its members and supporters to "spread the word, with positivity" about the SDSEO and everything we are and everything we do.
If you haven't seen the News page, know that State Employees Day will be held at the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 13, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. It'll be in the President's and Speaker's lobbies off the Senate and House floors, respectively. I'm thinking we'll do ice cream and brownies or something along those lines. Everybody is welcome to attend. I do hope to have a good turnout of both state employees and of SDSEO members.
The Department of Human Resources put out a new Benefit News Briefing on Sept. 14. Here's a PDF. Here are some highlights:
- There's a blood drive tomorrow (Thursday, Sept. 20) in Pierre.
- Walgreen's is up and running as a pharmacy provider for the state employee health plan.
- There's a fitness challenge for what should be a nice hybrid bike, some helmets, and a couple bike racks. (Note from Eric: Please try to take advantage of the opportunities you have as a state employee to improve your physical fitness. It helps the state to have fit, healthy employees, and it helps you to be fit and healthy as well. Everybody wins.)
- There's a section on what kind of medical provider you need, based upon your symptoms.
- There are a couple road-race plugs. More fitness!
Categories: Benefits News Briefing, Bureau of Human Resources, Executive Board, Health, Legislative, Meetings, State Employees Day