Senator Witkos Says SEBAC Agreement Does Not Go Far Enough

May 15, 2009

Believes agreement has little substance and will result in minimal savings for the state

State Senator Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, today said that the $700 million concession package that state employees agreed to last week and the State Senate ratified today will do little to provide the state with the substantial savings necessary to alleviate its current budget deficit. Sen. Witkos said that while the agreement sounds attractive on its face, it has the potential to handcuff state finances for the next two years. He said he could not vote in favor of the agreement when the state is facing a budget shortfall of over $8 billion over that time.

“The state is now locked into this agreement for the next two years. We don’t know what the economy is going to be like a month from now, let alone the next two years,” said Sen. Witkos. “If we want to shrink the size of state government, this agreement reduces our options enormously.”

Sen. Witkos stressed that this agreement sends the wrong message to residents and businesses alike who are struggling to make ends meet. He said that no business would agree to a two-year no layoff provision during this economic downturn.

In addition, Sen. Witkos said that he is equally troubled by the healthcare aspect of the agreement. He said that increasing prescription co-pays from $3 to $5 for generic prescriptions, and from $6 to $10 for brand name drugs is too little. “I don’t think you would find anyone in the private sector that comes close to paying those increases,” said Sen. Witkos. “We expect people on welfare to pay nearly the same in co-pays and that is just not right.”

Sen. Witkos also said he thought it was unfair that new state employees would be responsible paying for the benefits of retirees. In fact under the agreement, new employees and only new employees will have 3% of their salaries go towards the retirement benefits of retirees until they reach 10 years of service. In addition, certain preventive care co-pays will be decreased by 67%.

“We are talking about a budget deficit in excess of $ 8 billion and in these tough economic times 30% of our budget is now off the table. I think we could have done better,” said Sen. Witkos.