Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sen. Dave Schultheis questions state employee benefits

An independent audit presented Tuesday to a legislative panel shows that Colorado still trails other states in state-government employee benefits, but some lawmakers cried foul in light of benefits in the private sector that they say lag even further behind the state’s offerings.

The audit of the Department of Personnel and Administration’s employee-benefits program, carried out by Sjoberg Evashenk Consulting, Inc., under the auspices of the Office of the State Auditor, was presented at the Capitol to members of the Legislative Audit Committee. It shows that state employee health insurance benefits are still shy of catching up with those of peers in other states in terms of overall value to the employee.

However, Colorado’s policy of extending full health insurance benefits to part-time employees–defined as working one “regular” day per month–and of granting 10 days of sick leave annually, far exceed that of other comparable employers.

Health insurance benefits eat up 86 percent of the $281 million spent annually by the state on employee benefits. Approximately 29,000 state employees avail themselves of health insurance benefits with the remainder opting out.

The state has a fixed-dollar amount, regardless of the employee’s salary, that is applied toward health insurance. It amounts to $357 per month toward covering the employee and up to $883 per month toward covering the employee’s family.

Sen. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, who chairs the audit committee, said any lag in benefits received by state employees can’t compare with hardships in the private sector.

“When I look through this report … I think to myself, ‘How many private companies can afford the benefits that we’re seeing here?’” said Schultheis.    More -

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