From the Desk of the President (January, 2010)

"There are many persons ready to do what is right because in their hearts they know it is right.  But they hesitate, waiting for the other fellow to make the first move - and he, in turn, waits for you." - Marian Anderson


Thank you to Commissioners Jan Callison and Mark Stenglein for being the "fellows" to make the first move with their amendment to the 2010 Hennepin County budget.  The amendment offered reads as follows:


Background: On September 8, 2009, the County Board adopted a maximum property tax levy of $676,166,665 or a 4.95% increase over 2009 as recommended by the County Administrator. On September 29, the County Administrator proposed a budget that included a 3% increase in the net property tax levy. Given the current uncertain economic environment and risks at the Hennepin County Medical Center it is proposed the 2010 property tax levy be increased to the adopted maximum.


BE IT RESOLVED, that the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners increase the net tax levy by $12,553 313 to $676,166,665 with no change in the 2010 budgeted expenditures and that the prior year carry forward in the General Fund be reduced accordingly.  


This amendment passed on a 4-3 vote with Commissioners Jeff Johnson, Randy Johnson and Mike Opat voting against it and the amended 2010 budget passed on a 5-2 vote with Commissioners Jeff Johnson and Randy Johnson voting against it. By adopting the maximum property tax levy, there is a bit more breathing room for 2010 with all of the unknowns from the fall out from GAMC going away and the impact on uncompensated care costs to the tax payers of Hennepin County. Thank you to both Commissioner Callison and Commissioner Stenglein for recognizing that this was not the year to be penny wise and pound foolish and giving County Administrator Richard Johnson some more resources for next year's budget.


As you are all aware, the reason that we are in the economic turmoil for our 2010 budget and the ongoing adverse impact on the 2011 budget is, in large part, due to the fact that Governor     Pawlenty cut the allotments that the County normally would have received from the State to fund   the work that we do.  Another part of that is the cuts in funding at the federal level.  The point that Im making is that the people who have been elected to represent us, the taxpayers of Hennepin County, Minnesota and the country, have made some very poor choices in how our taxes should be spent.  Because of those poor choices, we have seen safety net programs slashed, education dollars cut, and public safety dollars dry up - all areas in which we have Local 34 members working. 


So, do you find yourself asking, "Well, what can I do about this?  I am only one person."   I have   the answer to that question. You can become involved in the political process to choose a candidate who will represent you and your values in the upcoming 2010 elections.  We need to find people who will remember that the health and well-being of all of us - regardless of our walk in life helps to maintain a healthy and vibrant community. 


A good starting point to this process is AFSCME Day on the Hill which will be held on February 17, 2010, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown St Paul.  We meet in the morning for workshops   about the legislative process and an update on the current issues pending before the legislature.  We meet with other AFSCME members from our respective legislative districts to prepare for our meetings with our State Representatives and Senators.  We have lunch, head on over to the Capitol for a rally and go to the meetings with the elected representatives.  After that is done, we head back to the hotel for an evening reception which is attended by many of the elected officials, so you can have a one-on-one conversation with them about your specific concerns. A motion was passed to send up to 40 of our members to this event with the Local covering one day lost time, mileage (or us fare) and parking. Lunch is provided. There is a $20.00 cost which members need to cover as it is a PEOPLE cost and the Local cannot, by law, use our funds to pay that.  We will elect our delegation for this even at the January 6, 2010 General Assembly, held at 5:30 PM in HSB 110.  If you are not able to attend the meeting but would like to put your name forward for the election, please send me an e-mail before 2:00 PM on that day.

We will have a guest speaker at the January 6, 2010 General Assembly.  Curt Haats, the financial guru for HSPHD (Human Services and Public Health Department) has graciously agreed to give us an overview of how the budget works - where the money comes from, where it goes, when we get   the money, why we have a surplus at times and a deficit at others - in order to give us a better understanding of how the department operates.  I hope that you will plan to attend the meeting for his presentation.  He has been able to present this "nuts and bolts" information in terms that even I, a very mathematically impaired person, can understand.


One last item - deductions on paychecks after going live with APEX continue to be a problem. You should check all of your paychecks to make sure that you have the correct deductions in place. If they are not correct, you do need to contact them to bring the matter to their attention. I did that when the 2nd paycheck did not include a deduction for the 1% contribution to a Health Savings Account.  It has not yet been corrected.  If you are running into the same type of problem, please let me know as I want to keep track of this. 


Happy New Year!