Schuette, Joined By Bolger and Richardville, Battles Excessive Spending By Civil Service CommissionContact: John Sellek or Joy Yearout 517-373-8060
May 6, 2011
LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced his office has filed a lawsuit against the Michigan Civil Service Commission challenging the constitutionality of its decision to grant state health benefits to unrelated adults and their dependants who live with some state employees, which will cost state taxpayers millions of dollars at a time the state faces a massive budget deficit. The Commission adopted the policy over the objection of Governor Rick Snyder, who asked that the Commission reject the policy in light of current budgetary challenges.
"Governor Snyder is right. This unconstitutional use of authority is costing the taxpayers millions at a time when they can least afford it," said Schuette.
Schuette's lawsuit has the support of Michigan's legislative leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and Speaker of the House Jase Bolger.
"In the face of a $1.8 billion budget deficit, the ruling of the Civil Service Commission comes at a time when Michigan can least afford to increase costs," said Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe). "Recently, I joined with my colleagues in the Senate to vote to reject this ruling by the CSC. I fully support the Attorney General in his efforts to pursue this matter."
"The Civil Service Commission has repeatedly and irresponsibly shown disregard for the Constitution, fiscal reality and the will of the voters," said House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall). "I have discussed this issue on several occasions with Attorney General Schuette to seek legal avenues for reining in these out-of-control officials. I'm very pleased the Attorney General is pursuing this lawsuit and fully support his efforts to bring accountability into a broken system."
The health benefits extension granted by the Civil Service Commission on January 26, 2011 is estimated to cost taxpayers at least $8 million in the first year alone. According to the policy, a State employee's co-resident is eligible for State health care benefits if (1) the State employee does not have a spouse, (2) the co-resident is at least 18 years of age, (3) the co-resident is not a member of the employee's family, and (4) the co-resident shares the same residence as the State employee for at least 12 months and is not a tenant, boarder, renter or employee.
The complaint filed today by Schuette in Ingham County Circuit Court calls for a permanent injunction against the implementation of the policy because the Michigan Civil Service Commission's decision to extend the health care benefits violates the Michigan Constitution in two ways:
1) The decision exceeds the Constitutional authority granted to the Commission. The Michigan Constitution grants authority for the Commission to establish compensation rates for State employees. It does not empower the Commission to compensate or otherwise provide benefits to non-family members or non-employees.
2) The decision violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Michigan Constitution. By arbitrarily granting state health plan eligibility exclusively to "non-family" adults and their dependents, the Commission has violated the equal protection rights of actual family members and their dependents not eligible under the plan. If an unmarried state employee lives with a sibling or a cousin, for example, that relative is not eligible for health benefits, yet such benefits are available to any non-family member.
The Civil Service Commission will have 21 days to file a formal response with the Court. The policy is scheduled to go into effect on October 1, 2011.