The Baker-Tisei Campaign took a big step by releasing their thirteen point reform package, aptly dubbed “Baker’s Dozen” on the steps of the State House. It is no secret that Massachusetts ended FY2007 with a $307 million budget deficit and that the state’s economy is in serious trouble. But, Baker is not the first political candidate to promise reform. The question is whether his proposed reforms are reasonable or simply campaign promises.
The reform package is designed to save Massachusetts tax payers over 1 billion dollars. Baker’s proposal includes:
• Competition and a better economic climate through reforming Pacheco law and Project Labor Agreements (PLAs).
• Fiscal responsibility by reforming our pension system, and getting serious about lowering health care costs.
Here are all thirteen of the reforms that Baker and Tisei propose:
1. Reduce construction costs by increasing competition – Public construction projects should be open to all bidders. Competition is important to ensure the best deal for the taxpayers.
2. Lower health care costs for cities and towns – Municipal health insurance relief is needed to provide communities with the power to update their health insurance plans outside of the collective bargaining process.
3. Implement real pension reform – The current pension system is unaffordable, unaccountable and unsustainable. Reforms must be enacted now to control costs and eliminate overly generous payouts for state workers.
4. End union control of public contracts – The Pacheco Law, passed in 1993, is the strictest-in-the-nation anti-privatization policy. Absent repealing this law, these restrictions must be modified to allow for greater flexibility in making determinations.
5. Consolidate and shrink state government – There are many opportunities to simplify and restructure the way the state does its business and reduce state spending to adapt to the loss of the one-time federal and rainy day funds.
6. Reform Medicaid – Enrolling Medicaid recipients into managed care plans is estimated to save the state up to $1 billion over five years. This budget saving option cannot be ignored any longer.
7. Require proof of legal residency for state benefits – Currently, there is no uniform policy that requires the state to verify the legal status for those applying for all state services including public housing, unemployment benefits, workers compensation, and welfare. It is only fair that recipients of state services should be required to prove to state agencies they are in this country legally before obtaining government benefits.
8. Conduct forensic financial analysis for benefits eligibility – State agencies need to consider more than just tax returns when determining individuals’ eligibility for public benefits and services.
9. Eliminate costly duplication of services for Medicaid and Medicare – Massachusetts is one of a handful of states that offers an integrated Medicare and Medicaid program for dual eligible seniors through managed care. The state should offer incentives to seniors to enroll in the Senior Care Options Plan. The state should also pursue a shared savings model with the Federal government to share the savings from moving seniors into the managed care plans.
10. Bring welfare reform in line with Federal standards – Massachusetts was once a welfare reform leader, moving more people into the workforce with the goal of attaining self-sufficiency. However, today Massachusetts is out of compliance with the Federal law because a large portion of those who receive benefits are exempted from the work requirements. The state must move more welfare recipients into the workforce to comply with Federal standards and ultimately reduce the state-funded portion of welfare benefits.
11. Offer incentives to state agencies to collect state revenues – The state should increase, by 10 percent, the amount of fees state agencies are allowed to retain in order to provide incentives to collect the revenues owed to the state.
12. Charge inmates room and board – There are more than 23,000 inmates in Massachusetts within the control of the Department of Correction and Sheriffs’ Departments. It seems reasonable and logical to charge these inmates a nominal daily room and board fee to help off-set the costs of incarcerating them. Inmates that are unable to pay should have their bills forgiven for good behavior after they are released.
13. Restructure overly generous public employee retiree benefits – Similar to pension reform, the state must also reform the “other post-employment benefits” provided to state employees.
All of these reforms are sensible and possible. Baker is proposing common-sense solutions that, when implemented should stimulate competition in the private sector and bring greater revenue to the Commonwealth. This is what the Baker-Tisei campaign is all about, serious reform that will work. It is clear that with Charlie Baker’s leadership we can get Massachusetts working again.