Tonight I had the opportunity to speak on the floor of the Iowa House regarding House Study Bill 117 (now House File 525). This bill deals with public employee collective bargaining agreements. Currently it has moved out of committee and will be sent to the floor for debate, along with over 90 amendments. Nothing has been passed as of yet, so there is much more time to debate the issue. However, the Iowa Legislature wanted to open it up to public comment on the matter so they scheduled a public forum at the State House.
After reading the 11 page bill, I decided that I would sign up to speak in favor of it. Needless to say, upon arriving at the Capitol, I noted a large and intimidating union presence, and in fact had some difficulty getting to the chambers to speak. I was definitely in the minority there (taxpayers usually are when we stand up for less government spending) but other than one rude comment directed at me personally, most people were respectful although a bit noisy in the rotunda. Here is the text of my speech:
Thank Mr. Chairman. I am here not as a member of a union, or as a member of a business organization, but as a member of the middle class. In 2010 I paid over $7300 in health insurance premiums, deductibles and copays. I was also able to put about $2400 in my 401k retirement plan which was matched at almost 100% by my employer. Ladies and gentlemen, there are over 100k Iowans out of work, experiencing extensive layoffs, furloughs, pay decreases and health insurance premium increases. Can someone please tell me exactly how using my tax dollars to give free healthcare & a golden retirement plan to public employees – plans that are far better than what I and most Iowans have- will help me or the middle class?
I have read this entire bill, and I don’t see any language in it that ends collective bargaining. I really don’t. In fact it specifically allows for the negotiation of the following – and I quote – “wages, hours, vacations, holidays, leaves of absence, shift differentials, overtime compensation, supplemental pay, seniority, transfer procedures, job classifications, health & safety matters, evaluation procedures, in-service training & other matters mutually agreed upon”. It seems to me that the public employees still have the ability to collectively bargain for everything but the two most expensive benefits, which are pensions & health insurance. What this bill really does is bring some common sense back to the negotiation process by allowing the taxpayers to have the final say on how our money is spent. By allowing the legislature to vote on a union contract, the taxpayers are put back in charge instead of a small group of unelected bureaucrats and those politicians seeking reelection. This bill is about being a better steward with taxpayer money, while still being fair to those represented by a union. The taxpayers will finally have a seat at the bargaining table, and that is a good thing. Thank you.
This is the fourth time I have had the opportunity to speak on the floor of the Iowa House, but it is the first time I saw every single house representative in their seat to hear the public speak. I have no idea why previous public forums did not garner the same respect for the Iowa taxpayer; perhaps this was due to a different majority in the House, or perhaps it had to do with the subject matter. All I know is that I hope this is indicative a positive movement towards putting the rights of the taxpayer over the hunger of government. We shall see.
To read the entire text of HSF 117 & its proposed amendments, go to http://www.legis.iowa.gov, and click on Legislation, then Bill History, and then select the bill number from the House Study Bill dropdown menu.
To see the healthcare and pension benefits of public employees go to the Iowa Department of Administrative Services at http://benefits.iowa.gov/index.html. Currently, 84% of Iowa public employees contribute nothing towards their healthcare premiums. And depending on years of service, public employees can retire as early as 55 at up to 72% of salary as their pension. (This is in addition to any social security benefits they may qualify for).