Legislative Priorities 2017

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:

SALARY ISSUES

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.

Support:

  • An across-the-board base pay increase in FY 2018 to prevent the private/public market pay gap from worsening;
  • Targeted salary adjustments for those positions with extraordinarily high turnover rates;
  • Targeted salary adjustments for those positions with the highest market gap;
  • Targeted salary improvements designed to correct salary compression;
  • Putting state employee pay considerations first in the executive budget development process.

Oppose:

  • Using contingent appropriations to fund pay raises;
  • Any actions that would result in a reduction in take home salary.

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.

Support:

  • Increased emphasis on prevention and wellness programs as a means to reduce future health care costs
  • Health insurance funding increases to offset the impact from lack of raise raises in State employee pay. When such increases are passed on to employees without a pay increase, they amount to a cut in take home pay.
  • Greater employee and retiree involvement in the design and operation of the State’s health insurance programs
  • An increase in the retiree health care credit.

Oppose:

  • Reduced health insurance benefits or increases in the employee cost share in a manner that reduces employee take home pay or retiree benefits.

RETIREMENT ISSUES

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.

Support:

  • Full funding of the employer share of the annual contribution rate established by the VRS Board in accordance with the schedule adopted in 2012;
  • Improvements to the hybrid plan that shift more of the employee contribution to the defined contribution portion of the plan.
  • Providing new employees with the option of participating in alternatives to the hybrid plan however such choices must also be accompanied by increased education regarding the impact of choosing any alternative.

Oppose:

  • Any increase in the employee share of the annual VRS contribution rate that results in a net pay reduction;
  • Reducing benefits of current State retirees;
  • Adverse changes to the retirement eligibility of current State employees.

LEAVE ISSUES

The existing employee leave system is confusing, administratively unwieldy and out-of-step with modern human resource management practices.

Support:

  • Leave simplification that combines various types of leave into a single “bucket” that can be used by an employee as needed and which is simpler and less costly to administer.

Oppose:

  • Any change in the leave system that might decrease the leave amounts currently being earned by long-term employees.

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.

Support:

  • Reduced work hours (Q status) as alternative to State employee layoffs.

Oppose:

  • State employee layoffs unless all other options have been exhausted. These options would include elimination of contract workers positions, elimination of overtime except in public safety emergencies, and leaving at-will positions vacant.

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.”

Support:

  • Legislation which would expand and/or strengthen fair treatment of all State employees in the workplace, regardless of their age, race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, religion or sexual orientation.

Oppose:

  • Additional bills that would provide exceptional treatment to certain employee groups based on their age, race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, religion or sexual preference.

EMPLOYEE PRIVACY

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.

Support:

  • Legislation that would limit the disclosure of classified employee personal information to position number, job classification, age, gender, race, and salary.

What VGEA Members Are Saying:

  • 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
  • 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
  • Great organization and I’m proud to be a member. VGEA worked tirelessly to ensure state employees received a 3% raise this year and not tied to revenue projections. VGEA is our voice to state government. I wish more state employees would join, there is strength in numbers.

    Carolyn Bethea

Representing the Commonwealth’s Employees and Retirees

For more than a half century, the VGEA has worked with Virginia General Assembly members and every Governor to protect the interests of the Commonwealth’s employees and retirees and to ensure that their needs are addressed. Learn More