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Michigan legislature to vote on changes to healthcare benefits

State capitol
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
The legislature will vote on changes to health care benefits for public employees tomorrow.

Thousands of teachers and local government employees will have to pay more for their health care benefits under a plan to be voted on tomorrow at the state Capitol.

The plan limits what school districts and local governments can pay for health benefits.

A legislative committee approved the measure today. It's expected to be voted on tomorrow by the House and the Senate.

It will require local governments to pay no more than 80 percent of their employee health care costs, or limit the payment to $15,000 a year per family.    

Republican state Senator Mark Jansen is an architect of the plan. He says it will save school districts and local governments millions of dollars:

“We all know that healthcare has gotten very expensive and so, in the future, whether you’re a local unit – any public entity, this is going to be a major cost to your future. We’ve got to pay attention to that," said Jansen. "Somehow, we have to say, let’s manage this differently, and so we’re saying, here’s where we’re going to help, here’s some guidelines that we think – you’ve got to have some kind of control, if you will, over the cost of health care. Right now, you don’t see that at a lot of levels."

Democrats and many local officials oppose the plan. They say it robs school districts and local governments of flexibility and the ability to attract good employees.

Democratic state Senator Colman Young says he plans to fight the measure on the Senate floor.

“Oh, absolutely. 110 percent. I’m going to fight this thing until the wheels fall off. I think it’s wrong. I think it's destroying home rule. I think it’s fiscal terrorism towards local units of government. Why have home rule?”

The plan will apply to lawmakers, but not to state civil service workers or to university employees.

That would require amending the state constitution.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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