Labor chief rips report on municipal health costs

A day after The Boston Foundation and the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation released a report concluding that municipal governments in Massachusetts provide employees with health insurance plans that are far more costly and generous than those offered in the private sector or through other public employers, the head of the state’s biggest labor union cast off the findings as “one-sided interests” of business-funded groups. “The same big businesses that have record profits, and for the first time in history stole all the productivity gains from workers and kept them as profits, are who fund, generously, the smokescreen ‘think tanks’ that produced that report,” AFL-CIO President Robert Haynes wrote in an “open letter” obtained by the State House News Service.

Haynes went after the heads of both groups, Paul Grogan at the Boston Foundation and Michael Widmer at MTF, saying both are “making closer to a half-million dollars than they are to your average municipal workers’ salary.” He added: “The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation should be called the Massachusetts Business Taxpayers Foundation. But alas, businesses don’t pay taxes in this country or in this commonwealth like the rest of us do, so Widmer should completely reinvent his group’s name. The Mass. Budget and Policy Center reports that the businesses like those that bankrolled Widmer and Grogan only paid 6.4 percent of total taxes in this state, compared to regular working people who paid 36.8 percent of the total in personal income taxes. No wonder Paul Grogan has allowed The Boston Foundation to so drastically lose its way; a lot of the money they’re saving on taxes is going to his endowment.”

Haynes alleged that the report’s methodology was flawed, faulted the media’s coverage of it, and claimed that communities were chosen “because they had the very best benefits and those with worse benefits were not included.”

The report, released Tuesday by The Boston Foundation, a self-described community foundation with $733 million in assets, and the business-supported Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, labeled municipal government health plans “gilded benefits from a bygone era” and called upon Gov. Deval Patrick and the Legislature to allow municipal health plans to be designed outside of collective bargaining.

The report, authored by Bob Carey of RLCarey Consulting, former director of planning and development for the state Connector Authority, compared municipal premiums and cost-sharing for 28 municipal government plans, two state plans, one federal plan, and the average benefits in plans found in a 2010 statewide survey of employer benefits conducted by Associated Industries of Massachusetts.