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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Shared sacrifice moves can't be balanced on backs of state workers, Michigan Appeal Court rules

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Michigan's Court of Appeal ruled on Friday
that a budget-shift move to balance
books on the backs of state employees,
State government employees won victory Friday, August 26th as the Michigan Court of Appeals decided a  governmental budget-balancing move to devote their pay 3% to cover retiree health care benefits, unconstitutional.

The Court of Appeals three-judge panel unanimously ruled that the Legislature and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) violated a clause of Michigan Constitution in 2010, when they agreed to withhold the money without the authorization of the independent states’ Civil Service Commission, which set rules of employment for all state employment.

If the ruling is upheld state workers could receive up to $59 million taken, in the now noted illegal payments.

The win, might be shorted lived in nature on further state based legal challenges as Michigan Supreme Court decision on the matter could differ from the states' Court of Appeals. The Detroit Free Press reported that a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Snyder (R) office stated that the ruling is under review and no decision has been made yet on whether to appeal.

Ray Holman, a spokesman for UAW 6000 and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, was pleased with the Appeals Court decision, recognizing that Michigan’s Civil Service Commission is the authority to set rules on how compensation is mandated, not the Governor’s office.
"We think the court got it right. The ultimate authority (on state workers compensation) is the commission," Holman noted to the Detroit Free Press.
The Snyder administration is in negotiations with state unions which are aimed at winning $265 million in pay and benefit concessions to balance next year's budget and if not successful, cutting jobs for up to 47,000 civil service employees

Michigan’s unemployment rate for August 2011 stands at 10.9%, the highest since former Gov. Granholm left office in December 2010, when the rate was 10.7%.
"We realize what's going on with the economy ... and that people are hurting," Holman said. "There are long-term issues that we'll have to face, just like everybody in Michigan. But for now we're happy the court recognized that what (Granholm and the Legislature) did wasn't right,” he noted.
Appeals Court Judges Karen Fort Hood, Jane Beckering and Cynthia Stephens ruling written opinion challenged whether the now popular term of “Shared Sacrifice” to balance Michigan’s fiscal issues – repeatedly used by current Gov. Snyder-- should be balanced on the backs of state employees.
"The people can and should expect shared sacrifice; however, it cannot come at the expense of constitutional nullification, and the Legislature cannot expect to balance the budget on the backs of state workers," the Michigan Appeals Court Judges noted in their opinion.
The decision by Michigan’s Court of Appeals underscored the role the courts will play in resolving Michigan's ongoing fiscal issues. Other issues pending within the states' legal system at the Michigan Supreme Court, is a challenge to the constitutionality of a law signed by Gov. Snyder and passed in the state Republican controlled Legislature's mandating a state income tax to Michigan seniors’ pensions.

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