Patrick Wright, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s senior legal analyst, believes there may be an easier way to get at cutting state employee’s pay and benefits than the burdensome and difficult process of amending the state constitution.

With a $1.8 billion projected deficit for the state budget, plus a plan to revamp the state’s major business tax, Gov. Rick Snyder has indicated that public employee pay and benefit cuts are on the table but has not yet given specifics about how this may happen.

State Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, has proposed a constitutional amendment to cut government employee pay by 5 percent.  It would override collective bargaining agreements. But the proposal attempts to do it by amending the state constitution, which requires a 2/3 vote by the House and Senate and approval by the voters.

Wright said there may be an easier way.

He thinks it possible that the Legislature could pass legislation ordering the reductions of state employee pay and benefits. Then the Michigan Civil Service Commission would have to approve the changes for state employees. There would also have to be an amendment to the Public Employment Relations Act and the Teachers’ Tenure Act, Wright said.

Then the legislation would be super-imposed over the language of public employee union contracts once they expired.

“The field is pretty open if they are willing to mess with the Public Employment Relations Act,” Wright said.

State Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, said he plans on asking the Attorney General’s office for their opinion on a related matter.  McMillin said he hopes Wright’s plan would be able to override existing union contracts.

“Hopefully, we don’t have to wait until they expire,” McMillin said. “Because we don’t have time to wait.”

But one union leader said any changes should be done during negotiations.

“Unilateral imposition of bargaining issues for public employees covered by PERA may be a legal problem absent changes in the PERA act,” Phillip Thompson, executive vice president of the Michigan public employees’ Service Employees International Union, wrote in an e-mail. “However, we do not believe the Legislature has authority over bargaining issues covering state employees because of the specific Constitutional authority granted to the Michigan Civil Service Commission. In both instances, it is our position that these issues should be handled at the bargaining table by the parties that are directly involved.”

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See also:

Cutting state spending requires going where the money is: K-12 education

Structural Overspending in Michigan’s State Budget: One Way to Fix It

Michigan Teacher Pay 16.5 Percent Higher Than Indiana

Michigan Spends More on Teacher Benefits Than Most Other States

What Can $5.7 Billion Get You in Michigan?

Saving $5.7 in Public Employee Benefit Savings - Is it Real?

How Does Michigan Teacher Pay Really Stack Up Against Private Sector and Teachers in Other States?

The School Employee Concession Myth

Michigan Falls to Bottom 10 in Key Economic Measure

Schools Buying Bigger Pension Payouts for Employees

Government Unions: The Real Wealth in American Politics

MichCapCon Snyder Interview, Part 1

MichCapCon Snyder Interview, Part 2

Michigan Department of Education Miscalculates Average Teacher Salary

Recaps of New Teachers Union Contracts

Analysis: Detroit Students Hostages to the Union

A Union Pension Bailout During the Lame Duck Season in Congress?

School Pensions Sucking Up Per Pupil Cash

School Pension Reform Stalls in Senate

Breaking News: House Vote Would Force Charter Schools Into Underfunded Pension System

Legislators Link Common-Sense Reforms to Tax Hikes