37 Days

The Legislature Has the Power to Undo Government Employee Pay Raises for a Reason

According to the state constitution, once the Legislature is formally notified of government employee pay raises, it has 60 days to rescind them. That means that the Legislature has until April 10, 37 days from today, in which to cancel out pay increases of 3 percent that the state has negotiated with unions representing its employees.

In the current economic climate, allowing this pay raise to take effect would be irresponsible. Yesterday, the Senate rejected a resolution that would effectively freeze state employee pay for this year, but there is no reason this vote cannot be taken again. It is essential that the Legislature pass this resolution. We have 37 days to restore fiscal sanity in Michigan.

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The state constitution set up this override process for a reason: Ultimately, the public, working through its elected representatives in Lansing, must control the public purse, and that includes the part of the state budget that goes to state employees. The process of collective bargaining cannot be allowed to trump the will of the people or the public interest; otherwise, our representative government is in danger of morphing into a plutocracy controlled by government employee unions, who could use collective bargaining to lead the rest of the state around by the nose. Hence, the Legislature must be able to reject the terms of a collective bargaining agreement that it deems impractical or unaffordable.

Overriding the pay raise will take a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature. The process is difficult — probably too difficult, though that is an argument for another time — but it exists for situations just like this. If the state is to find a way out of perpetual economic crisis, it must reassert the primacy of the public interest over union interests.

The clock is running. We have 37 days.