Thursday, January 29, 2009

Health and Human Services

The Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee met Wednesday January 21st to discuss 7.5-15% budget cuts for FY2009 and FY2010 for both the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services. After much disagreement, the committee made a motion to accept the revised proposal from the Legislative Fiscal Analysts Office. The motion failed in the House and passed in the Senate.
First the committee listened to public comment then each agency spoke on the updated proposed budget cuts from the Legislative Fiscal Analyst Office. Dr. David Sundwall, Executive Director of the Department of Health expressed concern for the proposal to dissolve the Utah Health Department into other state agencies. Sundwall noted how during the Special Session he felt more included in the discussion, however now he feels like the cuts of 68% to the DOH are disproportionate. Rep. David Litvack had many issues with the “assumptions” that money could be saved by consolidating agencies to fill the void of the Department of Health. In addition, if the Utah Health Department is dissolved, Utah would be the only state in the country without a health department.
Similarly, Lisa-Michele Church, Executive Director of the Department of Human Services noted to the committee that a 7.5-15% budget cut, would result in large “paradigm shifts” regarding no longer receiving federal matching dollars and in how to run these programs with less employees.
Lastly, according the committees’ motion to accept the Legislative Fiscal Analysts’ proposed budget based cuts, funding for the Health Care Reform internet portal episodes of care analysis will be reduced in FY2009 and eliminated in FY2010. This could be detrimental to health care reform and individual’s ability to compare and shop for health insurance online.

Senate Bill 126

Senator Daniel Liljenquist is running Senate Bill 126 - “State Personnel Management Act Amendments” that would change the current reduction in force (RIF) statute to state “The department head of a reappointing department may disapprove the reappointment of a career service employee from the reappointment roster.” UPEA is strongly opposed to this bill. When an agency performs a RIF, it is does so because of budget constraints, change in workload, or lack of work. By statute they cannot RIF an employee due to differences in character or performance issues that would require dismissal for just cause. What purpose does it serve to deny a proven and qualified former employee a reappointment, for which the former employee is qualified? The potential of this change in statute could result in favoritism and/or discrimination. UPEA supports the current reappointment process because it allows for fair and unbiased decision making.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


As the legislative session begins, The Utah Public Employees’ Association is busy protecting state jobs and benefits. This upcoming year looks to be challenging for public employees as economic woes have beset the state of Utah. The following issues are going to be of significant interest to UPEA due to the large impact that each could have on employee jobs, benefits, compensation, and rights. It is anticipated that the listed items will be discussed at some point during the legislative session.

The State Budget

There is discussion of laying off state employees and cutting employee benefits and salaries to help balance the budget this year. UPEA is currently supportive of the Governor’s budget proposal, which would cover the health insurance increase this year, limit the amount of cuts to state agencies, and protect benefits, compensation, and jobs. In a letter to Governor Huntsman signed by UPEA’s officers acknowledged the state’s current economic condition and the need to enact substantial budgetary reductions. The letter further stated that:

“Recent legislative announcements will require additional state personnel cuts. A reduction-in-force would further deepen the state’s economic crisis by adding to the unemployment rate and further reducing state revenues. The association believes it is in the best interest of taxpayers to consider alternatives. The UPEA State Board offered suggestions such as: eliminate positions through attrition; capture and redirect savings from reduced fuel costs; extend the life of fleet vehicles; review and reduce consulting contracts; enact a hard hiring freeze; suspend capital projects; draw from the “Rainy Day Fund”; and offer and early retirement incentive.”

Health System Reform

This year many legislators are trying to make changes to the health system, specifically regarding health insurance. The impetus for this is to create more accessibility and make health care more affordable for the citizens of Utah. There are currently over 300,000 individuals in the state of Utah without health insurance. Several legislators are looking at different possibilities to improve the current health care system; including changing the way health insurance is purchased and managed. This is something that UPEA will be watching very closely, due to the possible impact such changes could have on public employees’ health care and PEHP.

Changes to the Personnel Management Act

Due to the necessary recodification of the Personnel Management Act, UPEA will be watching for potential changes to the Utah Code affecting state employees. UPEA is anticipating potential changes to the pay scale system, market comparability studies, random drug testing, and the grievance process. UPEA will be closely monitoring any potential changes and making sure that employees are treated fairly.


Until recently, law enforcement in Utah has received up to a 2.5% retirement COLA. Last year, the COLA was changed to 4% for state public safety employees. Local governments would need to opt into the 4% retirement COLA by the end of 2009. UPEA is supportive of HB 212 sponsored by Representative Carl Wimmer that would allow local governments the opportunity to opt into the 4% retirement COLA until December 1, 2012.

Another law enforcement issue is to change the spousal death benefit from 65% to 75%. Senator Jon Greiner will be running Senate Bill 89 to change the retirement benefit upon the death of an officer. UPEA is supportive of such a plan.

UPEA believes a bill may surface that would change the state employee defined benefit pension plan to a defined contribution 401(k) plan. A defined benefit plan requires the employee to contribute money into a retirement plan such as a 401(k) or a 457 account. A defined benefit plan is a pension program that is paid for and maintained by the state, and offered to employees who retire from the state. UPEA is supportive of studying the issue further, before any policy is created to change the retirement system.

Study these issues on our web page. State employees should make an effort to contact their legislators regarding these issues. UPEA will continue to provide updates regarding the issues, bills, and budget as we receive them.

If you have any questions, please visit our web site at or contact your UPEA representative at (801) 264-8732.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Monday's Legislative Committee Meetings

All UPEA Employee Representatives attended legislative joint appropriations subcommittees on Monday. The Legislative Fiscal Analysts presented recommendations for cutting the state budget by 15%. Agency directors testified to the impacts of these cuts and legislators asked questions to clarify certain points. Overall, Monday’s session was informative. The committees will meet again on Wednesday, January 21st, beginning at 9:00 a.m. to debate and vote on recommendations to include in an appropriations bill.

UPEA is gathering information from ALL PUBLIC EMPLOYEES to share with legislators about how the cuts will affect them and to suggest alternatives to losing FTEs. Please take the survey and encourage all public employees to take the survey. Visit to enter the survey.

UPEA’s President, Mark Murray, along with Todd Sutton and Audry Wood, met with Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. on Monday to show support for the governor’s budget proposal. The governor’s proposed 7% in state budget cuts underscores the necessity for reductions while serving the best interests of employees and the public they serve. The governor also supports funding a 10% health insurance increase and maintaining current wages.