The Michigan senate has taken the first step toward overturning a state commission's ruling granting domestic-partner benefits to state employees, the Lansing State Journal reports.
The senate reforms, restructuring, and reinventing committee Wednesday approved a resolution that would overturn the state civil service commission's January ruling that extended health benefits to state workers' same-sex partners and other household members. The measure now goes to the full senate; it will take a two-thirds majority vote in both the house and senate to override the ruling.
Proponents of the repeal say it's not a social issue but a matter of money. "We don't have the funds to cover a benefit that could be in the tens of millions of dollars," said Jan Winters, director of the Office of the State Employer. Winters estimated the benefits would cost $8 million the first year and more thereafter.
Michigan has a $1.4 billion budget deficit, and the benefits represent one cost that new Republican governor Rick Snyder would like to cut. They were negotiated by unions with his predecessor, Democrat Jennifer Granholm, who was term-limited out of office, then approved by the civil service commission for both union and nonunion workers. Winters said the benefits granted by the commission go far beyond what was negotiated with Granholm -- for instance, they cover the children of dependent adults living in the employee's home, something few employers do.
Mark Jansen, the Republican senator sponsoring the repeal legislation, was optimistic that it would pass the full senate, where Republicans hold a wide majority; they have a slimmer one in the house. An opponent of the measure, Democratic senator Rebekah Warren (pictured), protested that the move goes against Snyder's stated intention to run the state more like a business, as many top U.S. and Michigan corporations offer domestic-partner benefits. "If we're going to run it like a business, why not run it like other businesses in the state?" she said.
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