Our membership determines our legislative issues and priorities. Each year at the general membership meeting in September, the VGEA’s proposed priorities for the upcoming General Assembly session are presented and discussed. Using feedback from the general membership meeting, the Board of Directors then finalizes the proposed priorities and adopts them at its regular fourth quarter meeting in December. These are the VGEA Legislative Priorities for the 2017 General Assembly session as adopted in December 2016:
The state pay system is plagued by market lag (the State’s own annual salary comparisons in 2016 show that pay for State positions lags behind comparable private sector, federal, and local government positions by 27% or more and salary compression – where newer employees at times must make the same salary or more than senior employees in the same job in order to recruit and retain new workers. Total compensation is no longer competitive to comparable positions in the private sector due to a combination of low salaries and changes in retirement benefits. The General Assembly began to address the market lag and salary compression issues with actions in 2013 and again in 2015. A contingent appropriation for an across-the-board increase in 2016 was canceled due to a revenue shortfall. Action is required ever year or the problem will continue to worsen.
HEALTH BENEFIT ISSUES
The Commonwealth provides high quality and affordable health insurance to active employees. The Commonwealth has traditionally kept the employee share of health insurance costs low for active employees to offset low salaries. Today there has never been more uncertainty about the future cost of health insurance. We must not reduce health insurance benefits or increase the employee cost share.
The Commonwealth makes quality health insurance available to both pre-Medicare eligible and Medicare eligible retirees but does NOT pay for retiree health insurance. Instead, it provides a credit equal to $4 per month for every year of active service. Health insurance costs have grown dramatically (176 percent over the past 15 years while the health insurance credit has not been raised in 17 years. This inaction has severely eroded the credit’s value. It is time to boost the retiree health care credit.
The Virginia Retirement System (VRS) must be operated as an actuarially sound and fully funded pension benefit plan. VRS is currently underfunded. In 17 of the past 25 years, the General Assembly appropriated less for the employer share of the pension fund than the VRS Board recommended. Legislation adopted in 2012 committed the Governor and General Assembly to phase-in full funding of the VRS Board recommended rate by 2018. The General Assembly reached that goal earlier than expected but the commitment to full funding must be continued.
Employees were hired and pay into the defined benefit plan with an understanding that the benefit level promised will be there when they retire. Those commitments must be honored without any change for current or retired employees. Legislation adopted in 2012 reaffirmed this contract while establishing a new hybrid plan that combines elements of both – a defined benefit and a defined contribution plan for those hired beginning January 1, 2014. Alternatives to the hybrid plan, such as a pure defined contribution plan, may be a preferred option for some employees but the hybrid pension plan must be protected as the default option for all employees.
The existing employee leave system is confusing, administratively unwieldy and out-of-step with modern human resource management practices.
JOB SECURITY ISSUES
Any cost savings realized in modifications to one area of State employee compensation shall only be used to augment another area of State employee compensation.
EQUAL EMPLOYMENT ISSUES
The VGEA has principles included in its Bylaws, one of which is 1.2 b. “Employees or retirees should not be discriminated against for age, race, gender, creed, ethnicity, national origin, religion, or sexual orientation.”
Employees should be protected from the disclosure of personal information that may put them or their families at risk from attack by predators of all kinds. In an age of social media information disclosure, Wikileaks, and hacking of government and financial industry databases, the ability to assemble and use personal information without the person’s consent has never been greater. Similarly, employees recognize that funds for salaries and benefits are derived from the Commonwealth’s citizens and that citizens have a right to know how those funds are being expended. A balance must be struck that protects the right of privacy for employees with the public right to know how government funds are expended.
This organization (VGEA) provides highest quality support for active and retired public employees…Dan Moon
VGEA is our Voice in Richmond!Judy Franklin
VGEA is Your Connection that has the strength of numbers and influence to demand that our issues are addressed.April Mela
I’m impressed with the VGEA’s General Assembly accomplishments, particularly in the last few years.Terry Alfred
Thank you, VGEA, for all you do for State employees. Your effort and dedication are much appreciated.Jayne Fanshaw, Longwood University
VGEA is wonderful and has our best interests at heart…it is truly the voice of the people.Joan Stromberg, ABC
Thank you, (VGEA) you do a great job representing us!Karen Poff
Unlike other organizations I’ve been a member of, VGEA really does what is promised and more. Keeps me up-to-date, helps me know what is really going on and how I can show my commitment.Carolyn Bethea
The cellphone discounts I’ve gotten through VGEA have probably been enough to pay my association dues for the rest of my life!L.F., Department of Corrections
“I saved $200 this year just by changing to Liberty Mutual for car insurance. That’s how much the VGEA insurance discount was – twice my dues!”J. L. Stone